Myanmar bishop urges prayer as fighting escalates
By Robin Gomes
“I urge priests and nuns to assist the active participation of the faithful in the prayer programme in October,” Bishop Pyone Cho wrote in a letter. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is observed on 7 October, for which the Catholic Church traditionally dedicates the month to the rosary.
Ethnic conflict and pandemic
The call of Bishop Pyone Cho, whose jurisdiction extends over Rakhine state, comes as the Southeast Asian nation continues to be plagued by an ethnic conflict as well as a second wave of Covid-19 infection.
With increased testing, Myanmar is seeing a surge in the number of Covid-19 infections. As of Tuesday morning, the country had reported a total of 18,781 cases, including 444 fatalities.
A 22-month conflict between Myanmar’s military and the rebel Arakan Army has been raging in Rakhine and Chin states. More than 90,000 people have been displaced due to the renewed conflict in Rakhine, which has spilled into neighbouring Chin state, home to many Christians, mostly ethnic Chin. The Arakan Army is a largely Buddhist militia demanding greater autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine people.
Rakhine state is also experiencing a separate conflict that has seen more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya, mostly Muslim, flee to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 due to military offensives.
Bishop Pyone Cho, who heads the Commission for Healthcare of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), had earlier appealed for dialogue among the parties in conflict, saying civilians, including children and the elderly, bear the brunt of the fighting.
The United Nations and humanitarian groups have expressed concern as the conflict has resulted in a surge in civilian casualties and displacement.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has also urged his faithful to pray the rosary and participate in an hour-long adoration through online initiatives against the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic. “As Christians, we need to maintain our faith and carry out three S vaccines — solidarity, sharing and service,” he said in a homily on Sunday.
The cardinal, who is president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), had issued an appeal in August urging the nation to unity and peace through dialogue and negotiation, not violence.
“We’re all damaged by war. No one wins. The only way is peace. With peace, humanity wins,” Cardinal Bo wrote in the appeal ahead of the country’s Panglong Union Peace Conference (UPC), held later in August in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw. (Source: UCA News)
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