Updated: March 24, 2021 02:05 PM GMT
This handout photo obtained from an anonymous source and taken on March 23, 2021 shows a "placard only" candle-light demonstration against the military coup in Yangon's Thaketa township. (Photo: AFP)
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has appealed to young people to continue pursuing a path of non-violence to restore democracy in Myanmar, which has been plunged into turmoil following a military coup.
Cardinal Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, also lauded young people’s historical contribution to the country in a March 24 statement.
“Yours is a nationwide movement, grounded in the values of democracy, non-violence, equity and solidarity, and seeks to bring justice for all,” Cardinal Bo told student-aged young people spearheading the pro-democracy movement.
He said the movement has gained the world’s admiration for its spontaneity, creativity, orderliness, massive organization skills, and non-violent approach.
The prelate, also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), said he recognized many of the challenges that the youths are facing.
“Brutal violence against the people that makes it increasingly impossible for peaceful gatherings; fear, depression and anxiety over the course of future action; finding safe places and living in existential anxieties,” are some of those challenges, he said.
The 73-year-old cardinal said he was “heartbroken and frustrated” by the violence that the young people face.
With the rising death toll, “you wonder if armed struggle may be the better response to the daily repression and brutality that you face.
“I appeal to you to remain determined and disciplined in non-violence,” Cardinal Bo said.
“Your impressive movement has gained worldwide attention, solidarity, admiration and support because of its peaceful nature so far,” he reminded them.
The path of violent struggle will initially excite a section of people but in the long-term, it will alienate the majority, losing all support and goodwill not only at home but also within the international community, he added.
“Again, I appeal to you to be peaceful and strategic to avoid confrontation and loss of life,” the Catholic leader said.
The cardinal said he will “continue to support all non-violent and peaceful efforts and interventions. I am fully committed at all levels to reduce violence in the streets and for the protection of lives.”
The plea comes as the daily death toll continued to rise in the Southeast Asian nation as the military stepped up lethal action to suppress pro-democracy protesters.
At least 275 people have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
A seven-year-old girl killed in her home by security forces in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, on March 23, is the youngest victim so far in the bloody crackdown.
Pro-democracy protests continue across the nation. A silent strike on March 24 kept many businesses and offices closed and people inside their homes.
Asian Church leaders have also joined in making fervent appeals for an end to the violence.
“Please begin a dialogue to find a solution, a way to go ahead,” 12 Asian cardinals said in a statement.
They said they were with their dear Brother Cardinal Bo.
“We share your pain and anguish. We join you as you lead your people in prayer to God for a speedy resolution to the conflict, and for light to all to see the way towards a solution.”
They also appealed to all religious leaders in Myanmar to join them in praying for peace.