Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends,
The massacre of at least 35 innocent civilians in Mo So village, Hpruso, Kayah (Karenni) State is a heart-breaking and horrific atrocity which I condemn fully and unreservedly with all my heart. Grieving, I pray fervently for the victims, their loved ones and the survivors of this unspeakable and despicable act of inhumane barbarity.
The fact that the bodies of those killed, burned and mutilated were found on Christmas Day makes this appalling tragedy even more poignant and sickening. As much of the world celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the people of Mo So village suffered the terrible shock and grief of an outrageous act of inhumanity. As many of us celebrated the light and life of the Prince of Peace, so many in Myanmar endured the darkness of death and destruction.
The whole of our beloved Myanmar is now a war zone. On Christmas Eve news came that air strikes in Kayin (Karen) State had forced thousands of people to flee across the border to Thailand. I pray for the people of Lay Kay Kaw. Similarly, Thantlang in Chin State has endured repeated bombardment, shelling and destruction, as have so many other parts of the country, all of which are in my heart and prayers.
When will this end? When will decades of civil war in Myanmar cease? When will we be able to enjoy true peace, with justice and true freedom? When will we stop killing one other? Brothers killing brothers, sisters killing sisters – this can never, ever be a solution to our problems. Guns and arms are not the answer.
I appeal to all those holding guns to put down their weapons. I urge Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, to stop bombing and shelling innocent people, to stop destroying homes and churches, schools and clinics, and to begin a dialogue with the democracy movement and the ethnic armed groups. I also plead with the armed groups and the People’s Defence Force (PDF) to recognise that guns do not solve the crisis but rather perpetuate it, causing more deaths, more starvation, with devastating consequences for our children’s education, our economy and health.
As Pope St John Paul II said, “Our world is disfigured by war and violence … Today, the scale and the horror of modern warfare, whether nuclear or not, makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations. War should belong to the tragic past, to history; it should find no place on humanity’s agenda for the future.”
The solution and the pursuit of peace is within us and among us, dear brothers and sisters in Myanmar. While we appeal to the international community for help – for prayers, for solidarity, for humanitarian assistance and for diplomatic efforts to help us end the tragic conflicts and seek peace and justice – we know that what international and multilateral organizations can do is limited. They cannot solve our problems for us. We must make peace ourselves, and together chart a new future of freedom with justice, truth and reconciliation.
I repeat: I call on the military to stop bombing, shelling and killing. I call on the democracy movement and the ethnic armed groups to strive earnestly for peace. And I pray from the very depths of my heart for an end to the tragedies we have seen in recent days and weeks and for too many years and decades. Let a new dawn begin for Myanmar and may the souls of those so brutally murdered rest in peace.
I wish to quote the message and Prayer of His Holiness Pope Francis delivered on Christmas Day: 25th December 2021
“Yet, in the heart of the night, look! The sign of hope! Today, “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso, XXXIII, 145), as Dante says, became flesh. He came in human form, he shared in our plight and he broke down the wall of our indifference. In the cold of the night, he stretches out his tiny arms towards us: he is in need of everything, yet he comes to give us everything. Let us ask him for the strength to be open to dialogue. On this festive day, let us implore him to stir up in the hearts of everyone a yearning for reconciliation and fraternity. Let us now turn to him in prayer.
Baby Jesus, grant peace and concord to the Middle East and the whole world. Sustain all those who provide humanitarian aid to peoples forced to flee from their homelands; comfort the Afghan people, who for more than forty years have been sorely tested by conflicts that have driven many to leave the country.
King of all peoples, help political authorities bring peace to societies roiled by tension and conflict. Sustain the people of Myanmar, where intolerance and violence not infrequently target the Christian community and its places of worship, clouding the peaceful countenance of that people.
Be a source of light and support for all those who believe in and strive, despite all obstacles, to advance encounter and dialogue……
Grant that, through dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of every human being, the values of solidarity, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence may prevail in the hearts of the peoples ….
Child of Bethlehem, grant that the many military and civilian prisoners of war and recent conflicts, and all those imprisoned for political reasons, may soon return home. Do not leave us indifferent before the tragic situation of migrants, displaced persons and refugees. Their eyes beg us not to look the other way, ignoring our common humanity, but instead to make their stories our own and to be mindful of their plight.
Eternal Word become flesh, make us attentive to our common home, which is suffering from the carelessness with which we so often treat it. Inspire political leaders to reach effective agreements, so that future generations can live in an environment respectful of life.
Dear brothers and sisters, amid all the many problems of our time, hope prevails, “for to us a child is born” (Is 9:6). He is the word of God, who became an infant, capable only of crying, and in need of help for everything. He wished to learn how to speak, like every other child, so that we might learn to listen to God, our Father, to listen to one another and to dialogue as brothers and sisters. O Christ, born for our sake, teach us to walk beside you on the paths of peace.
Happy Christmas to all!” ( Pope Francis)
Catholic Archdiocese of Yangon
President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar