Pope Francis appealed on Wednesday for an end to bloodshed in Myanmar, saying “Even I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say ‘stop the violence'”.
Francis made the appeal, his latest since a Feb. 1 coup, at the end of his weekly general audience, held remotely from the Vatican library because of COVID-19 restrictions.
More than 180 protesters have been killed as security forces try to crush a wave of demonstrations.
“One more time and with much sadness I feel the urgency to talk about the dramatic situation in Myanmar, where many people, most of them young, are losing their lives in order to offer hope to their country,” he said.
In language symbolising what protesters have done, Francis said: “Even I kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say ‘stop the violence.’ Even I open my arms and say ‘Let dialogue prevail’.”
Francis may have been referring to a video and photographs of a Catholic nun pleading with security forces on her knees not to shoot protesters last week in the Myanmar city of Myitkyina, both of which went viral on the Internet.
The nun, Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, later told reporters she had told the police to spare the children and shoot her instead.
There are fewer than 800,000 Roman Catholics in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Francis, who visited Myanmar in 2017, said:
“Blood does not resolve anything. Dialogue must prevail.”
Myanmar’s Roman Catholic leader Charles Maung Bo, has also called for an end to the bloodshed.
Myanmar’s most powerful Buddhist monks’ association called on the junta to end violence against protesters and accused an “armed minority” of torture and killing innocent civilians since last month’s coup, media said on Wednesday.
In its most forthright condemnation of the military’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, the government-appointed organisation also said in a draft statement its members intended to halt activities, in an apparent protest.
The State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee planned to release a final statement after consulting the religious affairs minister on Thursday, the Myanmar Now news portal said, citing a monk who attended a meeting of the committee.
Monks have a long history of activism in Myanmar and were at the forefront of a 2007 “Saffron Revolution” against military rule, an uprising that, although suppressed, helped usher in democratic reforms.
Committee members could not immediately be reached for comment, but their reported stance would signal a significant rift between authorities and a group that usually works closely with the government.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on Feb. 1, detaining her and members of her party, drawing wide international condemnation.
Ousted members of parliament, most from Suu Kyi’s party, pushed for a united stand against the coup in the ethnically diverse country, saying the designation of terrorist would be lifted from all autonomy-seeking insurgents fighting for democracy.
More than 180 protesters have been killed as security forces try to crush a wave of demonstrations,
the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group says.