04 January 2022, The Tablet

Myanmar “now a war zone” says Cardinal

Cardinal Charles Bo expressed outrage at military attacks on civilian targets.

Myanmar “now a war zone” says Cardinal

Anti-coup protesters stand at a barricade as they clash with security forces on Bayint Naung Bridge in Mayangone, Yangon, Myanmar, March 16, 2021.
CNS photo/Reuters

Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, launched a fresh appeal on 26 December for an end to violence. It came in the wake of a brutal attack by military forces on Christmas Eve where 35 civilians, all Catholics, were killed by the military in Kayah State. The bodies of two Burmese Save the Children workers were among the charred remains. The Cardinal condemned the massacre as “a heartbreaking and horrific atrocity”, adding that, “the whole of our beloved Myanmar is now a war zone.” The UN has asked for a “thorough and transparent investigation”.

Cardinal Bo also expressed outrage at air strikes in Kayin State, which forced thousands to flee across the border to Thailand on Christmas Eve, and the “repeated bombardment, shelling and destruction” of Thantlang in Chin state, and other parts of the country, in recent weeks. 

Some Christians voiced dismay on 23 December when Cardinal Bo and two auxiliary bishops hosted a bridge-building Christmas gathering with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing. Although before the latest military atrocities, the independent group Catholics for Justice in Myanmar condemned the meeting, saying it “is not representing the whole Catholic community in the country.” Yet others stressed that Archbishop Bo, created a Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, is both a courageous voice for human rights and a voice for reconciliation and peace. More than 1,300 people have been killed since the February 2021 coup enforced military rule nation-wide. 

Meanwhile, a Catholic nun from Myanmar, who stopped armed soldiers from attacking unarmed demonstrators by kneeling in the road in front of them, has been named as one of the BBC's top 100 inspiring and influential women of the year. Sr Ann Rose Nu Tawng of Myitkyina, the capital of Chin state, showed remarkable courage on 28 February 2021, when the 45-year-old went down on her knees and spread out her arms before the military, pleading with them not to attack unarmed protesters sheltering in the clinic where she cared for the sick. “Just shoot me if you want to; the protesters have no weapons and they are just showing their desire peacefully,” she said.

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