Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, pleaded for an end to violence after a deadly mortar attack in his country claimed the lives of four people sheltering in a church.
In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Cardinal Bo, who also serves as president of the Myanmar bishops’ conference, expressed his anguish over last Sunday’s attack on “innocent civilians who sought refuge in Sacred Heart Church” in Kayanthayar, a town in eastern Myanmar near the country’s border with Thailand.
“The violent acts, including continuous shelling, using heavy weaponry on a frightened group of largely women and children, resulted in the tragic death of four people and wounding more than eight,” he wrote.
The Southeast Asian country has been rocked by violence since 1st February after the military seized power and overthrew the elected civilian government. Myanmar had been ruled by the military for more than 50 years before Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government took office in April 2016.
Catholics, who are a minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have played an active role in praying for a peaceful solution, participating in pro-democracy protests and supplying material and moral support to the needy and the families of deceased protesters.
In his statement, Cardinal Bo said the extensive damage to the church bore “witness to the intensity of the attack on a place of worship” which forced many to flee into the neighbouring jungle.
“Their fate is still not known to the outside world. Food, medicine and hygiene are urgent needs but there is no way of reaching them. There are many children and old people among them, forced to starve and without any medical aid,” he said.
This, the cardinal added, “is a great humanitarian tragedy.” He condemned the killing and wounding of unarmed civilians who “were inside the church to protect their families” and urged efforts for peace and a de-escalation of the conflict.
“This needs to stop,” Cardinal Bo wrote. “Our people are poor, Covid-19 robbed them of their livelihood, starvation stalks millions, the threat of another round of Covid-19 is real. Conflict is a cruel anomaly at this moment. Peace is possible, peace is the only way.”
Photo: People look at thick columns of black smoke from Hkamti, Myanmar. Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon called for an end to violence after a deadly mortar attack on 23rd May claimed the lives of four people sheltering inside a church in a town in eastern Myanmar. (CNS photo/News Ambassador via Reuters)