Updated: July 19, 2021 10:28 AM GMT
People stand in the rain as they wait to enter the Martyrs' Mausoleum during a ceremony for Martyrs' Day in Yangon on July 19, 2020. Martyrs' Day marks the assassination of independence heroes including Aung San Suu Kyi's father, who helped end British colonial rule. (Photo: AFP)
He said the martyrs' blood was shed to make Myanmar a great country.
“As Covid spirals out of control, inflicting fear, anxiety and death, the only way we can pay homage to the martyrs’ sacrifice is to come together as one nation against the pandemic,” the prelate said in an appeal letter on July 19.
He said the Southeast Asian nation has seen too many tears recently and called for an end to all conflict.
“The only war we need to wage is against the lethal invisible virus, which proved to be invincible even to superpowers of the world,” Cardinal Bo said.
This year marks the 74th anniversary of the death of nine martyrs who were assassinated on July 19, 1947 — a year before Burma gained its independence from Britain.
It is time to come together to celebrate our unity in service. We are capable of doing it again
Of the nine national martyrs, five were Buddhist, two were Muslim, one was Christian and another was Hindu.
The nation commemorated Martyrs' Day amid the worsening Covid-19 crisis due to lack of proper health care, resources and capacity under the neglect of the junta following the coup on Feb. 1.
Myanmar recorded 5,285 new cases and 231 deaths, bringing the total infections to more than 229,521 and 5,000 deaths, according to the junta-controlled health ministry on July 19.
The outspoken Catholic leader lauded the united front of generous service at care centers, the heroism of frontline workers and people’s response to the needy when the country faced the first and second Covid waves last year.
He appealed to the authorities to facilitate the secure participation of all health workers and the youth to participate in this existential threat to the nation.
“It is time to come together to celebrate our unity in service. We are capable of doing it again,” Cardinal Bo said, adding “it is time to raise an army of volunteers, armed with medical kits to reach out to our much-suffering people. United we save lives; divided we will bury thousands. History will be the harshest judge if we fail in compassion.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines designated July 19 “A Day of Solidarity for Myanmar” and urged prelates and dioceses to join the prayer.
The bishops also urged parishes to join the tolling of church bells at noon and at 6pm as a sign and expression of their support.
People bowed in silence for 90 seconds as the clock approached 10.37am, the time when the nine martyrs were gunned down in Yangon, allegedly by armed paramilitaries of former prime minister U Saw.
The junta-controlled media broadcast the ceremony held at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon, the commercial hub of the country, on Monday.
However, Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed leader and daughter of General Aung San, who remains in detention, was not allowed to join the ceremony in order to lay a wreath and pay respects to her father.