Catholics in Myanmar welcomed Pope Francis’ appeal for help for people displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Southeast Asian country.
“We are very grateful to Pope Francis. When the pontiff speaks, the people of Myanmar feel very encouraged and moved,” said Archbishop Marco Tin Win of the Archdiocese of Mandalay.
The Church leader said even non-Catholics listen the pope’s message. “It is a very important support for all of us, in this tragedy,” he said.
The archbishop also welcomed the arms embargo declared by several countries on Myanmar.
“The Burmese population was waiting for this decision. We hope it will be a first step to stop the violence and resume a path of peace,” he said.
“What the pope said strengthened me,” said Sister Christina Zarni of the Missionary Sisters of Providence congregation.
The nun said she feels that “our leader cares for us and does not forget us … and it shows that he is with the needy and the least.”
Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for help for the people of Myanmar, especially for those who have been displaced due to the conflict following the February 1 military coup.
“I join my voice to that of the bishops of Myanmar,” said the pope after the Sunday prayer of the Angelus in the Vatican.
The Catholic bishops of Myanmar have earlier issued a statement appealing for peace, a humanitarian corridor in the conflict zones, and respect for the sanctity of places of worship.
Civilians in Karen State, Kayah State, and Chin State in Myanmar had to take refuge in the forest due to government military operations against a growing resistance movement.
Father Saw Titus of the Archdiocese of Yangon expressed his gratitude for the pontiff’s call for humanitarian help.
The priest said that without help “there will be more death and suffering due to injuries, sickness, and bad weather.”
Father James Eishu of the Diocese of Pathein said the pope’s message “shows the Church’s concern for people who are the least in the world.”
The European Union on Monday imposed a third round of sanctions on Myanmar officials and state companies over the military coup.
More than 860 people have been killed by security forces since then, and more than 4,500 jailed, according to an activist group. The junta says the number is much lower.
Neither sanctions nor diplomacy nor the increasing violence have had an obvious impact on the junta, which argues that the coup which ended 10 years of tentative democratic reforms will bring a “disciplined democracy.”
The EU imposed an asset freeze and a travel ban on eight Myanmar officials, among them the home affairs minister responsible for the police force, and slapped sanctions on three companies that are state-owned or controlled by the military.
A fourth entity, the War Veterans Organization, was also hit by the measures.
“By targeting the gems and timber sectors, these measures are aimed at restricting the junta’s ability to profit from Myanmar’s natural resources, while being crafted so as to avoid undue harm to the people of Myanmar,” the EU said in a statement.
In total, EU sanctions now apply to 43 individuals and six entities. Britain added three Myanmar entities to its sanctions list on Monday. – with a report from Reuters and Raymond Kyaw Aung/RVA News