Updated: October 04, 2021 06:26 AM GMT
The funeral rites for a member of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) who died during a clash with the military in Demoso township in Myanmar's Kayah state is held on Sept. 17. (Photo: AFP/KDNF)
While the world has paid little attention to Myanmar’s crisis triggered by the military coup, Pope Francis has made a fresh appeal for peace in the beleaguered country.
Addressing thousands of pilgrims during the Angelus in St. Peter's Square in Rome on Oct. 3, the pope implored from God “the gift of peace” for the Southeast Asian nation which has suffered through so much pain in recent months.
“The hands of those who live there may no longer wipe away tears of pain and death but may join together to overcome difficulties and work together for the coming of peace,” he prayed.
Pope Francis has spoken several times about the crisis in Myanmar, which he regards with much affection after visiting the country in 2017.
He has repeatedly called for military leaders to stop the violence, release all detained people and pursue dialogue to seek peace.
The pope's plea came as the country descends into political turmoil while fighting has intensified across the country eight months after the coup on Feb. 1.
At least 1,114 people have lost their lives in a brutal crackdown by the military and over 8,000 people have been detained since February
The military junta, which calls itself a caretaker government, is struggling to control the conflict-torn nation as newly established local militia groups, a mass civil disobedience movement and daily protests challenge them.
Despite world leaders including Pope Francis calling for an end to the violence and pursuing peace, the junta has shown no signs of easing oppression of civilians including children in ethnic regions and villages where the Bamar majority resides.
At least 1,114 people have lost their lives in a brutal crackdown by the military and over 8,000 people have been detained since February.
Civilians from ethnic regions including predominantly Christian areas in Chin, Kayah, Kachin and Karen states have borne the brunt of the renewed conflict where people have historically faced oppression and persecution under iron-fisted military rule for more than five decades.
The conflict sparked by the coup has forced more than 240,000 people out of their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis in the country, according to a United Nations report on Oct. 2.
The report said at least 12,000 people have been displaced in Chin state, 142,000 in Kayah state, 63,000 in Sagaing, 12,000 in Magwe region and 13,380 in Shan state.
“It remains difficult to determine the full humanitarian impact, including the exact number of people cumulatively displaced, the number of civilian casualties and the damage to civilian property, because humanitarian partners have not been granted access to the regions with travel authorization pending,” the UN report said.
“Across the country, access to vulnerable people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and protection services remains significantly restricted due to escalating armed clashes, overall insecurity and Covid-related restrictions.”
A UN official in Myanmar has said the people in the Southeast Asian nation are living in “a severe crisis” with a level of poverty not seen for at least 20 years.
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