Catholics in Myanmar pray for peace as protests continue to rage

The Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Pathein in Myanmar gather on Monday, April 12, to offer prayers for peace and for those who died in the ongoing conflict in the country. (Photo supplied)

The Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Pathein in Myanmar gathered on Monday, April 12, to offer prayers for peace and for those who died in the ongoing conflict in the country.

About a hundred priests, religious, and lay people prayed the Holy Rosary inside the St Peter's Cathedral compound.

"Everybody is sorrowful now," said Father Robert Nyan Lin, assistant parish priest of Pathein. "Now is the time to express our common sorrow as a community," he said.

The priest, however, said the situation in Myanmar does even allow people to mourn.

"We are saddened for the loss of lives of people, but what we can do is to pray for our fallen heroes," said another priest who introduced himself only as Father Vincent. 

"By giving their lives, we hope and we pray that we regain our freedom," said the priest.

Monsignor John, local ordinary of Pathein diocese urged the Catholic faithful to continue praying together.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activists pledged on April 13 to hold a series of protests this week to maintain pressure on military rulers during the country’s most important holiday of the year.

The five-day New Year holidays, known as Thingyan, are usually celebrated with prayers, ritual cleaning of Buddha images in temples, and high-spirited water-throwing on the streets. 

Activists urged people this year to stage symbolic protests from the start of the holiday on April 13, including by painting a three-finger salute used by demonstrators on traditional Thingyan pots filled with flowers, which are typically displayed at this time.

“The military council doesn’t own Thingyan. The power of people is in the hands of people,” Ei Thinzar Maung, a leader of the General Strike Collaboration Committee protest group, wrote on Facebook.

Activists also called for a day of silence to commemorate the victims of the violence and for a day of religious observance on April 17, with Buddhists urged to wear religious attire and recite prayers together and Christian communities to wear white and read psalms. Followers of other religions in the predominantly Buddhist country were urged to follow the call of their leaders.

It will be the second consecutive disrupted new year holiday after the coronavirus pandemic all but cancelled last year’s celebrations.

The Feb. 1 coup has plunged Myanmar into crisis after 10 years of tentative steps towards democracy as the military stepped back from politics and allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to form a government after her party swept a 2015 election.

The military says it had to overthrow her government because a November election again won by her National League for Democracy was rigged. The election commission dismissed the accusation.

The coup has triggered daily protests by those opposed to military rule, but at a heavy price, with security forces killing 710 protesters, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.

That included 82 people killed in the town of Bago, about 70 km northeast of Yangon, on April 9.

Details of the violence were difficult to verify because of the junta’s curbs on broadband internet and mobile data services. - with a report from