Aid to the Church in Need will conclude peace campaign on 2nd anniversary of Feb 1 military coup
In this picture taken on May 13, 2018, internally displaced people and local villagers attend a church service in Myitkyina, Kachin state. (Photo: AFP)
United with Pope Francis’ request for prayers after a recent hike in attacks on Christians and churches in military-ruled Myanmar, the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is holding solidarity prayer meetings for Christians ahead of the two-year anniversary of the coup.
The worldwide three-day prayer started on Jan. 30 and will end on the anniversary itself, Feb. 1, of the coup which has caused thousands of deaths and massive displacement in the Buddhist-majority Southeast Asian nation.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN, said, “As we prepare to mark the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, on Feb.1, we ask God to move the hearts of all those who can put a stop to this tragedy.”
“We also pray for all the internally displaced, including children, women, the elderly and sick in the affected areas,” Heine-Geldern said in a statement on Jan. 26.
The ongoing ethnic conflict in Myanmar, triggered by the military's ousting of the democratically elected civilian government of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has seen churches and convents attacked in Christian-majority Kayah, Chin, Karen and Kachin states, claiming the lives of many priests and pastors.
“Let us pray for an end to violence and a return to dialogue, which would be a considerable source of strength for the future of Myanmar,” said Heine-Geldern.
"It is a deliberate act of terrorism to hold on to power"
Nearly 2,900 people, including hundreds of children, have been killed, and over 17,000 people have been arrested by the ruling military junta since the coup, according to rights groups.
It is a deliberate act of terrorism to hold on to power and “to wipe the Catholics out of the country,” a local clergyman, who did not wish to be named, said.
ACN’s campaign follows Pope Francis' call for peace after the more than a century-old Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Chan Thar village in Mandalay archdiocese was reduced to ashes in a raid on Jan. 15 along with 500 houses.
“My thoughts, with pain, go in particular to Myanmar, where the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in the village of Chan Thar, one of the oldest and most important places of worship in the country, was set on fire and destroyed,” the pope said during the Angelus on Jan. 22.
After the church was torched in the fourth raid on Chan Thar village in eight months, the Church in Myanmar urged the military rulers to protect places of worship in a letter, signed by Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, and Archbishops Marco Tin Win of Mandalay and Basilio Athai of Taunggyi.
“Why are these sacred places attacked and destroyed?” Cardinal Bo of Yangon asked in the Jan.20 letter.
Christians make up nearly 6 percent of Myanmar’s population of 54 million and Buddhism is the state religion with 89 percent of the population following it. Five out of 16 dioceses in the country — Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay and Mandalay — are affected by the ongoing conflicts between the army and armed ethnic rebel groups, some of whose members belong to various Christian denominations.
In the most affected Loikaw diocese in Kayah State, 16 parishes have been targeted and at least 19 churches and religious buildings have been destroyed.
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