Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar has appealed to the country’s military to stop the violence, and calls on the democracy movement and ethnic armed groups to strive for peace, reported Vatican News.
His appeal comes in the wake of a brutal attack by military forces on Christmas Day in which at least 35 people, including women and children, were killed in the eastern state of Kayah.
“I call on the military to stop bombing, shelling, and killing. I call on the democracy movement and the ethnic armed groups to strive earnestly for peace. And I pray from the very depths of my heart for an end to the tragedies we have seen in recent days and weeks and for too many years and decades,” Cardinal Bo said in his boxing day statement, praying for a new dawn for his country and for “the souls of those so brutally murdered.”
Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) said that the attack was perpetrated by military junta troops who also detained an unconfirmed number of villagers and destroyed their properties. Two members of the humanitarian organization “Save the Children” are also reportedly missing.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the previous elected government and detained many top officials, including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was jailed earlier this month. Since the February 1 coup, the military has used brutal force to assert its power over the people.
The Cardinal described the massacre in Mo So village in Kayah State as “a heartbreaking and horrific atrocity” which he condemns fully and unreservedly, and he noted that “as many of us celebrated the light and life of the Prince of Peace, so many in Myanmar endured the darkness of death and destruction.”
“The whole of our beloved Myanmar is now a war zone,” he said, and decrying what he described as an “unspeakable and despicable act of inhumane barbarity,” he launched his heartfelt appeal.
“I appeal to all those holding guns to put down their weapons. I urge Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, to stop bombing and shelling innocent people, to stop destroying homes and churches, schools and clinics, and to begin a dialogue with the democracy movement and the ethnic armed groups,” Cardinal Bo urged, pleading also with the armed resistance groups to recognize that guns do not solve the crisis but rather perpetuate it, causing more suffering and downfall.
“While we appeal to the international community for help, for prayers, for solidarity, for humanitarian assistance and for diplomatic efforts to help us end the tragic conflicts and seek peace and justice,” he pointed out that international and multilateral organizations cannot solve Myanmar’s problems.
And he called on the nation to make peace “amongst ourselves” and “together chart a new future of freedom with justice, truth, and reconciliation.”
“I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country,” United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Martin Griffiths said in a statement.
He called for “a thorough and transparent investigation”.
In his message for Advent, Cardinal Bo urged the people of Myanmar to continue to hope and dream.
“Our heart-wrenching memories tell us just a year ago, this country held lofty dreams in her heart, sadly it convoluted into a nightmare so soon,” the Cardinal wrote. “This land was a garden of Eden; beautiful, resilient, envied by so many nations for her resources, for the colorful people who lived with great joy, songs, and sharing. How did this Garden of Eden mutate into the expanded Way of the Cross? Into the valley of tears? The conditions in Myanmar remind us of the warning of Jesus of the Apocalyptic times.”
The brutal Christmas attack occurred just two days after Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing visited Cardinal Bo’s house in Yangon on December 23 for a Christmas event hosted by the Cardinal and two auxiliary bishops.
The archbishop of Yangon and the general cut a Christmas cake together and the military chief also donated US$11,000 to the cardinal for church funds, reported UCA News. The meeting has drawn criticism from several local Catholic groups.