Pope Francis renews appeal for peace in Myanmar as violence continues to escalate

“I wish once again to implore from God the gift of peace for the beloved land of Myanmar,” said the pontiff

Pope Francis once again appealed for peace in Myanmar at the end of his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer in the Vatican on October 3.

Clashes between anti-coup militias and junta troops have escalated in recent weeks along with bomb blasts and targeted killings of those suspected of collaborating with the military, leading to bloody reprisals on both sides.

“I wish once again to implore from God the gift of peace for the beloved land of Myanmar,” said the pontiff.

“May the hands of those who live there no longer wipe away tears of pain and death, but instead join together to overcome difficulties and work together to bring peace,” he added.

In June, Pope Francis appealed for help for the people of Myanmar, especially those who have been displaced due to the ongoing conflict in the country.

“I join my voice to that of the bishops of Myanmar, who last week launched an appeal calling to the attention of the whole world the harrowing experience of thousands of people in that country who are displaced and are dying of hunger,” said the pope.

On June 11, Myanmar’s Catholic bishops issued a statement appealing for peace, a humanitarian corridor in the conflict zones, and respect for the sanctity of places of worship.

The bishops urged the faithful in Myanmar “to launch into a period of intense prayer, seeking compassion in the hearts of all and peace to this nation” with daily Mass, adoration, and the rosary.

“May the Heart of Christ touch the hearts of all bringing peace to Myanmar,” Pope Francis said.

A report by Agence France Presse last week said dissidents have also attacked and disabled cell towers belonging to a military-owned company to deprive the junta of revenue.

A parallel government made up largely of lawmakers from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has also sought to fan the flames, calling for a “defensive war” against junta troops and assets.

Church personnel and humanitarian workers distribute rice to displaced villagers. (Photo supplied)

Villagers have accused soldiers of torching their homes and killing their neighbors in acts of vengeance directed at those resisting military rule.

Almost the entire population of the western town of Thantlang fled after troops fired artillery shells following clashes with anti-junta fighters last month, a 50-year-old resident told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Terrified inhabitants had used buckets of water to fight a blaze that started after a shell hit a house and threatened to consume others in the neighborhood, he said.

The fire service was not working because the wife of the head of the fire department was hit by a shell fragment during the fighting, he said, with the tide turning, thanks to a sudden change in the weather.

“Due to the help of God, it rained that day,” he said.

Many made the arduous journey across rivers and hills to cross into India for the relative safety of a refugee camp.

On the other side of the country, villagers in eastern Kayah State also fled army shelling after clashes earlier this week, according to a local anti-junta militia.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and some 8,000 arrested since the coup, according to local observers.

The junta said the death toll is much lower and denies its troops have committed massacres and torched homes. – with a report from Agence France Presse

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