Influential Catholic groups from around the world joined calls for an end to military rule in Myanmar as they urged the global community to “take strong diplomatic actions” to restore democracy in the country.
In a joint statement, SIGNIS, Pax Christi International, and the Focolare Movement called for an end to what they described as the “disinformation campaign” by the military to ensure and justify their stay in power.
“We reject the disinformation campaign by Myanmar’s military justifying their actions,” read the groups’ joint statement released on March 16.
They also called for the “protection of journalists who are arrested and harassed for sharing news and information on what is happening on the ground with the rest of the world.”
The military took power in Myanmar on February 1 following allegations of electoral fraud during in November’s polls.
The Catholic groups condemned the coup even as they expressed support for calls made by Church leaders, including Pope Francis and Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, for a “meaningful dialogue.”
They called on countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, to exert pressure on Myanmar’s military to step down and not to “exploit the situation (in Myanmar) for their own geopolitical interests.”
End to authoritarianism
“We deplore the extreme authoritarianism that saw fit to trample on the nation’s constitution,” said the faith-based organizations.
They urged their members around the world to “give voice to the cry of the Burmese people” and report to the media the situation in Myanmar.
SIGNIS is an organization of global Catholic communicators with thousands of affiliates in many countries.
In more than a month of protests, Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 183 people, including religious leaders, youth activists, and journalists.
The international Catholic groups noted how the “courageous people” of Myanmar return to the streets daily “to protest peacefully even as soldiers beat them and shoot them.”
They joined growing calls for the release of state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained officials and leaders and an end to violence and arbitrarily detention of protesters.
They also called for “justice and accountability for the atrocities committed by the army against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities.”
Funeral for slain protesters
On Tuesday, March 16, families of dozens of people killed in demonstrations against military rule attended their funerals as more protesters defied security forces and at least one man was shot dead.
The United Nations food agency, meanwhile, said the political and economic crisis over the February 1 overthrow of the government could also force the poor into hunger as food and fuel prices rise.
Security forces shot dead at least 20 people on Monday, March 15, after 74 were killed a day earlier, including many in a suburb of Yangon where Chinese-financed factories were torched.
On Tuesday, a crematorium in Yangon reported 31 funerals, a mourner at one of the ceremonies said.
Some families told media the security forces had seized the bodies of victims, but they would still hold a funeral.
People held up pictures of Suu Kyi and called for an end to the repression during a small protest in the southern town of Dawei on Tuesday.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was appalled by the escalating violence and called on the international community to help end the repression. – with a report from Reuters