04/23/2020, 15.45
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Card Bo joins Pope Francis to ask for a global ceasefire to heal Myanmar as well

by Francis Khoo Thwe

The Archbishop of Yangon backs the pontiff and the UN secretary general who have called for an end to armed conflicts to save people from the pandemic. The prelate calls on Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic militias to favour dialogue and openness to avoid a health catastrophe. Military action by anyone will destroy the country. The cardinal slams China’s Communist Party.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Card Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, issued a statement yesterday evening. In it he joins Pope Francis and UN Secretary General António Guterres in demanding a global ceasefire, made that more urgent by the ongoing pandemic.

“The pandemic’s consequences are catastrophic for public health and for social and economic life,” he writes. “This is no time to escalate conflict.” This is especially true for Myanmar, where fighting between armed ethnic militias and Myanmar’s military have increased in Shan State and with the Chin in Rakhine.

“I am convinced,” the cardinal goes on to say, “that continued military operations, precisely when the whole nation is suffering a crisis, will have catastrophic consequences for our nation.

In fact, many international organisations fear that Myanmar is at risk of a health catastrophe, as it lacks basic health facilities. This explains Card Bo’s plea.

“Now is the time for decisions that will build Myanmar as a united, peaceful, prosperous nation and member of the family of nations. Conflict makes Myanmar especially vulnerable.”

The country’s “national and ethnic leaders are able to choose between the path that seeks trust and cooperation for the good of all and so unite the nation,” and “the path of continued conflict, which surely will only lead to overwhelming consequences of deeper disaster for those who already greatly distressed.”

Citing State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on the importance of protecting the people from the epidemic, the archbishop expressed his appreciation for some of the steps taken in that direction by the Ministry of Health, but added that “heightened military operations, by whatever sides, contradict all these enlightened initiatives.”

At present, “Soldiers are unnecessarily endangered by exposure to the unseen viral assassin. Civilians are endangered, even by bombardments purportedly aimed at military targets. Peace negotiations are endangered by continued aggressive threats. An economy under severe strain is put at risk by military adventures. Any spike in contagion in IDP camps, among detained persons, or in crowded spaces, gravely threatens the surrounding populations as well.”

To back his point, Card Bo cites that case of certain armed groups in countries like Cameroon, the Philippines, Yemen, and Syria who have already accepted to reduce violence because of the pandemic threat.

Urging the warring parties to “lay down all weapons and [stop] acts of aggression", he mentions past meetings organised by Religions for Peace, which “have shown that dialogue in coordinated ways among all parties is possible and fruitful.” To this end, the Catholic Church is “ready at all times to encourage and mediate a new and timely dialogue among diverse parties".

Lastly, with respect to the coronavirus crisis, Card Bo a few days ago launched a scathing attack against China for its role in the pandemic. It is probable that when he criticised Beijing, he also had this appeal for peace in mind: China, in fact, sells weapons to both rebel groups and the Myanmar military.

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