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Pope reiterates appeal to end war in Myanmar

What does war do? It destroys, it destroys humanity, destroys everything, Pope Francis said as he once again called for dialogue to end conflict and loss of lives in Myanmar, ahead of the ASEAN leaders’ summit in Cambodia.

Published: November 11, 2022 11:29 AM GMT

Updated: November 16, 2022 10:35 AM GMT

Pope Francis has once again appealed for dialogue to end the conflict in Myanmar where the military continues to attack civilians.

During his general audience with catechists on Wednesday, the pope called on world leaders to think about wars in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar and reminded them that war destroys everything including humanity. While the world has paid much attention to the war in Ukraine, the pope has spoken several times about the war in Myanmar and prayed for peace and reconciliation.

His latest appeal came as the military junta continued its deadly attacks across Myanmar including Christian-majority areas of Kachin, Kayah, Karen, and Chin states. The deadliest attack on Oct. 23 left 80 people dead in an aerial bombing of a music concert in Kachin state.

Myanmar’s crisis is a top agenda at the ASEAN summit that began on Thursday. Since the military coup last year, more than 2,400 people have been killed and over 16,000 detained in Myanmar.

This photo taken on Sept 17 shows a young victim of an air strike on a school building in Depeyin township in Myanmar's northwest Sagaing region, a day after an attack on the village by a Myanmar military helicopter

This photo taken on Sept 17 shows a young victim of an air strike on a school building in Depeyin township in Myanmar's northwest Sagaing region, a day after an attack on the village by a Myanmar military helicopter. (Photo: AFP)

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Ahead of the ASEAN leaders’ summit, prominent Christian activist Theary Seng has gone on a hunger strike in a prison in Cambodia’s remote northern region to protest her jailing and highlight the country’s dismal human rights record.

Seng, an American-Khmer lawyer and an editor of the Khmer Bible, was jailed for six years in June for plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government. She began her strike on Monday with the backing of the Khmer Thavrak youth group.

Cambodian-US human rights advocate Theary Seng, dressed as Lady Liberty, is arrested by police after being found guilty of treason in her trial in front of Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 14. (Photo: AFP)

A family member said Seng is taking only water and her protest denounces Hun Sen’s politically motivated violence, control of security forces, manipulated elections, massive corruption, and the tacit support of foreign powers.

President Joe Biden is attending the mid-November ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh when about 12,000 security personnel will be deployed. Supporters of Seng have campaigned for her release since she was jailed along with 139 people. Seng was a prominent supporter of the outlawed Cambodian National Rescue Party and its leader in exile Sam Rainsy.

Goa archdiocese in western India has announced that the next exposition of the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier will commence on Nov. 21, 2024. The once-in-ten-year event draws millions of people of all faiths from across the world.

Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrao, archbishop of Goa and Daman, issued a special decree last Saturday, announcing the seven-week-long exposition of the sacred relics of the 16th-century Spanish Jesuit saint and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, popularly known as the Jesuits.

Pilgrims, including Hindus and Muslims from villages in Kolhapur district in Maharashtra, are seen walking to the Basilica of Bom Jesu in Old Goa, some 250 kilometers aways, for the exposition of the relics of St. Francis Xavier in this 2014 file photo.

The body of Saint Francis Xavier, which was considered incorrupt until three decades ago, is placed in a silver casket in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, the capital of then-Portuguese-ruled India.

During the exposition, the body — now seen only as relics — will be lowered and placed on a podium to allow pilgrims to come near and seek the saint’s intercession. Close to 4 million people visited the relics during the last exposition, which concluded in January 2015.

In the Catholic-majority Philippines, about 150 members of a Muslim extremist group surrendered to the military in the insurgency-plagued Mindanao region.

The members of the Abu Sayyaf group laid down their firearms and ammunition at a military camp in Jolo of Sulu province on Tuesday. This was the largest surrender of Abu Sayyaf members this year. Since January more than 176 have surrendered. Military officials said the surrender was the outcome of their repeated and uninterrupted offense against the rebels.

Former members of Abu Sayyaf surrendered to military forces in Sulu province, Mindanao region. (Photo: Philippine Army)

Meanwhile, the rebels had cited “fatigue” as the reason and admitted that they had been fighting government forces without food and water amid a lack of ammunition. The Department of Social Welfare and Development said the rebels would undergo a rehabilitation program while serving time in prison.

Muslim scholar Gandula Maitem noted that as long as poverty and lack of education continue in Mindanao the conflict will not be over. Abu Sayyaf group has carried out numerous bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and extortion activities in the past decades.

Church groups in Indonesia’s Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province have slammed a government undertaking for using their names to move ahead with a controversial geothermal project.

The state-run electricity company PT PLN has made claims in a booklet that it has approached and consulted the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Franciscan order, the Divine Word, and Ruteng diocese regarding geothermal projects in Manggarai district.

Agustinus Egot from Kampung Mesir in Manggarai district shows the location of the planned drilling site in his field slated for the geothermal project by the State Electricity Company. (Photo supplied)

In the booklet, the company also stated that the geothermal projects are supported by the Vatican through the Laudato si encyclical issued by Pope Francis in 2015. The project has drawn strong opposition from local residents since it was conceived.

It plans to utilize 40 megawatts of geothermal energy potential, but residents say the drilling points will have adverse impacts on their villages and farmland. The company has plans to establish 60 drilling points in 13 villages.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee joined hundreds of Catholics in Seoul to pray for the victims and family members of the Halloween stampede tragedy that killed 154 people.

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Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul officiated at the requiem Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul last Sunday. During his homily, Archbishop Chung said it is a nation’s fundamental duty to protect the lives of its citizens and added he feels “regretful and ashamed that the society has failed to protect its younger generation.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee are seen during a requiem Mass for the victims of Halloween stampede at Myeongdong Cathedral in the capital Seoul on Nov. 6. (Photo: Seoul Archdiocese)

Earlier, Catholics across South Korea prayed for the victims of the tragedy during All Souls Day on Nov. 2.

The stampede at the Itaewon area of the capital city occurred on Oct. 29 when around 100,000 people in Halloween costumes poured into two narrow streets for partying, resulting in a stampede. At least 154 people, including 26 foreigners, were killed and 33 people were hospitalized in the accident, sparking national and global outrage over lax crowd control blamed for the fatalities.

Bao Choy, a journalist and freelance producer in Hong Kong, has expressed disappointment this week after losing an appeal against her conviction for making “false statements” to obtain data for a documentary on attacks against pro-democracy protests in 2019. Choy regretted that her conviction would affect how reporters in the city access information and face obstacles in the coming days.

Choy was earlier convicted on two counts of making false statements to obtain vehicle records for a documentary for public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong or RTHK in April 2021 and was fined about 765 US dollars. She came under fire from the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government for her documentary “7.21 Who Owns the Truth?” aired in RTHK in July 2020.

Hong Kong journalist Bao Choy speaks to the press in 2020. Choy was convicted of making a 'false statement' for a documentary on an attack on democracy supporters in Hong Kong in 2019. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The documentary revealed owners of the vehicles who supplied arms to a pro-government group that carried out indiscriminate attacks against people at the Yuen Long town and station on July 21, 2019, leaving 45 injured.

Besides suppressing voices of dissent and democracy, the authorities in Hong Kong have protected pro-Beijing media and continue to dismantle independent and pro-democracy media in the former British colony.

Sri Lankan Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council to press home for establishing freedom and justice as the national government continues its heavy crackdown on rights activists who speak out against fraud and corruption.

In a statement on Tuesday, the outspoken cleric said the government is suppressing human rights activists into silence and slammed the arrest and detention of two Buddhist leaders for 75 days.

Protestors hold placards as they take part in an anti-government demonstration in Colombo on Sept. 25. (Photo: AFP/UCAN files)

Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera and Wasantha Mudalige are two leading anti-government activists who have been detained under the PTA or Prevention of Terrorism Act without charges since August. Media reports say at least 129 people are in jail under the PTA.

Most of them have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the Easter bomb attacks in 2019. Cardinal Ranjith said that the arrest of people for the Easter attacks and their acquittal is a legal drama by the authorities to mislead people.

In Bangladesh, ethnic Santal people including Catholics joined by civil society groups marched on the streets to remember victims of a deadly clash that left three Santals dead, dozens injured, and thousands forcibly evicted from their ancestral land six years ago.

The protest rally was held in Govindaganj area of the northern Gaibandha district last Sunday. The protesters called on the government to compensate the victims and return the disputed land to the Santal people.

Bangladesh's indigenous Santal people take out a rally to demand justice six years after being attacked and driven out of their ancestral land in Gaibandha district, on Nov. 6. (Photo supplied)

In the first week of November 2016, clashes erupted between villagers, police, and hired goons of a local sugar mill authority over long-running land disputes. While villagers were driven out, video footage showed police joining attackers to set fire to the shanties of Santal people.

The Santals filed two cases related to the attacks and in 2019 police filed charges against 90 people. The Santals rejected the charge sheet as they said the masterminds of the attack were not included in the list. The cases are still pending in court.

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