The world is still in shock at what happened in Myanmar on February 1, 2021 when the military declared a state of emergency and took over the newly elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi just as the newly elected members of parliament were about to hold their first meeting.
Myanmar had been making strides towards democracy since the 2015 elections, but all that has changed. People are in a state of shock. They cannot believe that the army is bringing the country back to its dark past. The military crackdown is reminding people of those difficu]t years.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, along with eighteen Catholic bishops in Myanmar, has appealed to the government, decrying their violent crackdown in the streets, urging the military to exercise restraint, and calling on them to return to dialogue to resolve the crisis:
"The sad and shocking events have brought huge sorrow to our nation. The heart-rending scenes of youth dying in the streets wound the conscience of a nation. Let not its sacred ground be soaked in fraternal blood. The sadness of parents burying their children must stop. Mothers' tears are never a blessing to any nation ... Today the world weeps with us, shattered by the fragmentation of this nation. Our youth deserves better."
Since the February coup, however, Myanmar's military junta has responded with increasing brutality to nationwide nonviolent protests calling for the restoration of democratic civilian rule.
According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, government security forces have killed more than 750 people, including 50 children, and arbitrarily detained several thousand activists, journalists, civil servants, and politicians. Hundreds more have been disappeared.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, has warned that Myanmar could become a "full-blown conflict" like the tragic situation in Syria.
The Missionary Society of St. Columban joins with Catholic congregations around the world to raise our voices in protest to the government's use of violence and express our deep concern for the safety and well-being of the people of Myanmar. We join Pope Francis in calling for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict, and an immediate end to the violence.
In his message to the people of Myanmar, Cardinal Bo concluded: "I have watched with sadness the moments of darkness in our history and watched with hope the resilience of our people in their struggle for dignity ... This crisis will not be resolved by bloodshed. The killings must stop at once. So many have perished. The blood spilled is not the blood of an enemy. It is the blood or our own sisters and brothers."
Fr. John Burger, SSC
Columban US Region, Director
Columban Center for Advocacy & Outreach, Director
About the Missionary Society of St. Columban
The Missionary Society of St. Columban lives in solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, and the wounded earth. In 16 countries around the world, we work to empower people and one another.
For a PDF copy of this statement, please click here.