Church leaders call for end to violence in Myanmar

Demonstrators show the three-finger salute to protest against the military coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, February 6, 2021.(Photo: Reuters)

Church leaders are pleading for an end to the brutal suppression of anti-coup protests in Myanmar. 

Security forces in the country have resorted to an increasingly violent crackdown on people demonstrating against the February 1 coup in which Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders were rounded up and placed under house arrest. 

In one of the deadliest days yet, at least 18 people were killed during protests on Sunday. 

The Catholic Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions has issued a statement appealing for peace and expressing solidarity with the people of Myanmar. 

"Peace is possible. Peace is the only way," said the Executive Committee, which is led by the Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor. 

The statement calls for the "prompt" release of all political prisoners and urges the Myanmar military to "refrain from violence and seek reconciliation, while adhering to democratic principles and fully respecting human rights, including the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the freedom of assembly, media and expression". 

"We stay united in prayer with the people of Myanmar. You will not be forgotten. May truth, justice and peace prevail," it reads. 

On Tuesday, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, Dr Martin Fair, echoed these calls in a letter to the Myanmar Ambassador to Britain. 

"Church of Scotland has long connections with Myanmar and we cherish our relationships with the church there," he said. 

"We therefore join with others in calling for an end to violence, for the coup to be reversed, the release of elected leaders and the will of the people of Myanmar to be recognised. 

"We want all people in Myanmar to flourish and to be able to enjoy safety and prosperity. 

"We do not believe this can be achieved under an unelected, illegitimate military government that uses lethal force against its own citizens." 

Church leaders in Myanmar have been joining the protests and peace marches in large numbers.

Yangon Cardinal Charles Bo praised young people for "fighting against the most brutal military dictatorship".

"Young people take risk their life to save other lives," he said on Twitter. 

In one powerful protest, a nun, Sr Ann Nu Thawng, kneeled in tears before a line of police begging them to stop the violence.