Cardinal Bo vows support for non-violent protests, warns demonstrators against violence

Medical staff and students take part in an early morning protest against the military coup and crackdown by security forces on demonstrations in Mandalay on March 21. (AFP photo via LiCAS.news)

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon vowed to continue his support for “non-violent and peaceful efforts” to protest the current situation in Myanmar.

In a statement released on Wednesday, March 4, he warned the people of Myanmar, especially the youth, against “going down the path of violent struggle.”

The Catholic Church leader appealed to protesters “to remain determined and disciplined in non violence.”

“I continue to support and remain available for all non-violent and peaceful efforts and interventions,” said the cardinal.

“I am fully committed at all levels to reduce violence in the streets and for the protection of lives,” he added.  

He said Myanmar’s struggle is “already too long and bloody” and “there are no easy solutions.”

The cardinal, however, said that “hate cannot be dispelled by hate but only by love” and “darkness is never dispelled by darkness but only by light.”

He said the path of violent struggle “will initially excite a section of the population but in the long term, it will alienate the majority, losing all support and good will not only at home but also with the international community.”

Catholic Church leaders from across Asia have earlier issued a joint appeal for “peace and reconciliation” in Myanmar.

The statement, signed by cardinals from across Asia on March 19 but only released to the media on Tuesday, March 23, was addressed to the country’s military, politicians, protesters and religious leaders.

The cardinals said they were adding their voice “in making a fervent appeal to all concerned” for peace in the country.

“Please begin a dialogue to find a solution, a way to go ahead,” they said.

The Church leaders assured Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, who has been vocal in his calls for an end to the conflict in Myanmar, of solidarity.

“We are with you. We share your pain and anguish,” said the cardinals in the letter.

“We join you as you lead your people in prayer to God for a speedy resolution of the conflict, and for light to all to see the way towards a solution,” they added.

“Violence is never a solution; force is never a solution. It only gives rise to more pain and suffering, more violence and destruction,” read the statement.

Myanmar nun Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng kneels in front of police officers to ask security forces to refrain from violence against children and residents amid anti-coup protests in Myitkyina, Myanmar, March 8 in this still image taken from video. (Myitkyina News Journal handout via Reuters / LiCAS.news)

In his statement, Cardinal Bo appealed to the people of Myanmar who join the almost-daily demonstrations in the streets of the country’s major cities “to be faithful and strategic to avoid confrontation and loss of life.”

The prelate said he “unconditionally condemn(s) all acts of violence against unarmed civilians.”

He lauded the demonstrators for their “historical contribution to and sacrifice for the greater good of our country and our people.”

The Church leader noted that the peaceful protests in the past weeks “has gained the world’s admiration for its spontaneity, creativity, orderliness, massive organization skills, and non-violent approach.”

“I acknowledge your pain and trauma,” said Cardinal Bo.

On Wednesday, protesters continued to hold anti-coup protests, including a silent strike with many businesses due to close and calls for people to stay home.

Pro-democracy protesters also held more candle-lit vigils overnight including in a district of the commercial capital Yangon and in Thahton in Mon State.

The vigils came after staff at a funeral service in Mandalay told Reuters on Tuesday that a seven-year-old girl had died of bullet wounds in the city.

Soldiers shot at her father but hit the girl who was sitting on his lap inside their home, her sister told the Myanmar Now media outlet. Two men were also killed in the district, it said.

The military had no immediate comment on the incident.

In what has now often become a deadly game of cat and mouse with security forces during street protests, pro-democracy activists switched tactics and planned to hold a silent strike on Wednesday.

Social media posts and media indicated a range of businesses from ride hailers to pharmacies planned to close.

The military junta has faced international condemnation for staging the coup of Feb. 1 that halted Myanmar's slow transition to democracy and for its lethal suppression of the protests that followed.

It has tried to justify the takeover by saying a Nov. 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy was fraudulent — an accusation the electoral commission has rejected. 

Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date and have declared a state of emergency. - Joe Torres for LiCAS.news and RVA News with a report from Reuters