The Catholic bishops of Burma have called for a “return to dialogue” as two protesters were killed during demonstrations over the weekend.
“The heartrending scenes of youth dying in the streets wound the conscience of a nation,” the bishops said in a Feb. 21 letter.
“This nation has a reputation of being called as a golden land. Let not its sacred ground be soaked in fraternal blood,” they said. “Sadness of parents burying their children has to stop. Mothers’ tears are never a blessing to any nation.”
The letter was signed by 10 bishops, including Cardinal Charles Bo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, the country’s official name.
The bishops’ appeal came after two people died and at least 20 people were injured in clashes between police and demonstrators in Mandalay.
Demonstrators are protesting against this month’s military coup and calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s elected civilian leader.
She was detained along with Burma’s President Win Myint and other members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party when the military seized power on Feb. 1, alleging fraud during last November’s elections, which the NLD won by a landslide.
Reports on Sunday said that some protesters in Mandalay threw projectiles at police, who responded with live fire and tear gas.
The bishops urged those in power to seek reconciliation and healing, beginning with the release of the detained leaders.
“Just a month ago, this nation held in her heart a great promise: dreams of enhanced peace and robust democracy,” they wrote. An election was held despite the coronavirus pandemic and “the world admired our capacity for managing our differences.”
“Today the world weeps with us, shattered by the fragmentation of this nation once again. Our youth deserve better,” the bishops wrote.
They said that if Burma does not learn to solve its problems peacefully, it could be wiped off the world map.
“Urgently, the recourse to violence has to stop. The past lessons warn us violence never wins. Seventy-two years after independence, those in power need to invest in peace,” the bishops said.
“The peace dividend will heal this nation. Give peace a chance. Peace is possible, peace is the only way.”