Updated: March 18, 2021 05:43 AM GMT
Residents take part in a candlelight vigil despite a curfew in Yangon on March 16 in honor of those who have died since the military coup. (Photo: AFPTV/AFP)
As security forces in Myanmar have increased their crackdown on civilians, with disappearances, detentions and the killing of peaceful protesters, Pope Francis appealed for an end to violence and the start of dialogue.
"Once again, and with much sorrow, I feel compelled to mention the tragic situation in Myanmar, where so many people, especially young people, are losing their lives for offering hope to their country," the pope said at the end of his weekly general audience on March 17.
Without mentioning her name, the pope recalled the iconic gestures of Kachin nun Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng, who made headlines when photographs were published of her kneeling before police seeking to shield peaceful protesters and of her extending her arms begging police not to shoot or hurt anyone.
"I, too, kneel on the streets of Myanmar and say, 'Stop the violence,'" Pope Francis said. "I, too, spread wide my arms and say, 'Make way for dialogue.'"
Bloodshed "resolves nothing," he said, repeating his call for dialogue to begin.
The United Nations, human rights groups, bishops and Catholic organizations have condemned the actions of the Myanmar military, which has continued to crack down on protesters since its Feb. 1 coup.
Sister Nu Tawng’s brave act in confronting security forces went viral in late February when she was lauded worldwide as an icon of peace.
It’s the fourth time the pope has spoken about the crisis in Myanmar, which he regards with much affection after visiting the country in 2017.
The military’s bloody crackdown has continued against pro-democracy protesters undeterred by arrests, torture and lethal force.
In a rare gesture, Myanmar’s most powerful Buddhist monks’ association has called on the junta to end violence against protesters and pursue dialogue.
It accused an armed minority of torture and killing innocent civilians since the Feb.1 coup, according to Myanmar Now on March 17.
The media report said the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee planned to release a final statement by submitting its draft to the Religious Ministry on March 18.
Buddhist monks have played a leading role against military dictatorship as they led the 2007 uprising known as the Saffron Revolution, which was suppressed by a violent crackdown.
Myanmar has been in political turmoil following the military’s ouster of a civilian-led government and detention of its leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
As of March 17, more than 180 people had been killed and over 2,000 detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners group.
A team of UN investigators appealed for people to collect documentary evidence of crimes ordered by the military to build cases against its leaders.
Myanmar’s acting vice-president Mahn Win Khaing Than has called for a revolution against military dictatorship as this was “the darkest moment of the nation.”
The ethnic Karen civilian leader, who is in hiding, was charged with high treason by the junta on March 17.