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Myanmar nuns in brave mission for the needy

As civilians face a brutal military clampdown, nuns are providing material and moral support

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: April 15, 2021 09:05 AM GMT

Updated: April 15, 2021 04:23 PM GMT

Myanmar nuns in brave mission for the needy

Nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition give material and moral support to a Muslim community affected by fire in Mandalay on April 14. (Photo: SJA)

As Myanmar people face fear and terror under military rule, courageous nuns are carrying out charity work to help the vulnerable and most in need by showing solidarity, love and care.

Nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition (SJA) joined Buddhist monks to reach out to fire victims in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, on April 14.

About 30 houses in a predominantly Muslim community were damaged in a fire that broke out early on April 13. The nuns provided food and other essential items to victims while giving moral support.

On April 4, they visited other people who were affected by a fire on the outskirts of Mandalay. The nuns provided food items, blankets, tarpaulins and medical aid to nearly 500 people from 130 households while comforting them.

The charitable works of SJA have paid off due to generous donors who provided contributions for the most in need people.

Kachin nun Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng set a shining example with her fearlessness in confronting security forces 

Fires have broken out frequently in recent days in several places including local administration offices and areas of Yangon and Mandalay, especially at night or dawn. A nighttime curfew is in place from 8pm to 4am. It is unclear how they started.

Nuns also visited two families in Mandalay where two Buddhist young men aged 18 and 19 were killed by security forces to console them and pray for the departed souls.

In a situation of political turmoil, poverty and traumatization due to the Feb. 1 coup, nuns have stepped up with charitable and humanitarian service.

They have also played a significant role in the nationwide anti-coup protests by marching in the streets, praying at convents and standing before churches to express their solidarity with the people of Myanmar.

Kachin nun Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng set a shining example with her fearlessness in confronting security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

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She became an icon of peace when she knelt in the road to plead with security forces not to shoot unarmed civilians in Myitkyina, Kachin state, in February and March.

The nun’s courage prompted Pope Francis to give much attention to Myanmar's crisis.

“I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say, ‘Stop the violence’,” Pope Francis said. “I, too, spread my arms wide and say, ‘Make way for dialogue’.”

Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of Aid to the Church in Need, a pontifical foundation of the Catholic Church, has hailed the pictures of the nun kneeling to block the path of security forces as “moving.”

He said the Catholic priest who, together with a Protestant priest, succeeded in negotiating the withdrawal of police and demonstrators is another powerful example.

“Hopefully, their actions will soften the hearts of those who are in charge,” Heine-Geldern said in an appeal for peace in Myanmar on April 5.

There are hundreds of people who live in fear, anxiety and dread

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has highlighted the acts of mercy which start with good deeds.

“Hunger is not only the problem our people face: they are afraid, they are traumatized, their spirit is broken by street violence,” Cardinal Bo said, adding “they need words. Words of comfort.”

He said people should visit those who have lost their dear ones to the hatred. These families need our words.

“There are hundreds of people who live in fear, anxiety and dread. Thousands are in prisons. They all need the soothing words, like Jesus soothed his disciples: Do not be afraid, I am with you always,” Cardinal Bo said in a message on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 11.

Catholics have held prayers, fasting and adoration for a peaceful solution to the crisis since the coup.

Priests, nuns and laypeople took part in a prayer for peace and for fallen heroes in St. Peter’s Cathedral compound in Pathein Diocese on April 12.

Kachin Baptist Convention has called on Christians around the world to pray and advocate for an end to military rule.

Myanmar has seen daily killings, arrests and horrific acts of indiscriminately shooting pro-democracy protesters and unarmed civilians at home as the junta has continued its deadly crackdown to quell the protests.

Brave protesters have continued to march in cities and towns even during the Buddhist New Year water festival from April 13-17 to show their defiance to military rule and to respect the fallen heroes.

More than 715 people have been killed and 3,070 detained since the coup, according to a rights group which tracks casualties and arrests.

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