Washington D.C., – Catholic nuns in Burma have joined widespread protests against the recent military coup, Asian Catholic websites have reported.
According to UCA News, Catholic nuns from a variety of communities in Burma have marched the streets, praying for the protestors and offering them food. Amid protests in the city of Myitkyina, the capital of the state of Kachin, nuns hung signs saying “No to dictatorship” and “Listen to the voices of people” outside of their convent.
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of 54 million people. Both the democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and president Win Myint were detained by members of the military in the early hours of Feb. 1, after the military disputed the results of the 2020 election. The army general Min Aung Hlaing now leads the country.
Protests in Burma have been ongoing since the coup. Catholic priests and nuns have joined the protests in the majority-Buddhist country, where Christians make up only around 6% of the population.
On February 11, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition Myanmar went to pray and protest outside of the Chinese embassy in Mandalay. Pictures posted to the order’s Facebook page showed sisters displaying the “three-finger salute” and praying outside of the Chinese embassy in Yangon.
The hand gesture displayed by the nuns is a symbol of resistance and has been used by various pro-democracy movements.
Besides the visible presence of nuns and priests on the streets of Burma, other Catholic figures have issued statements of support for the protests and against the military rule.
In a Feb. 3 statement, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon asked the military to release “the voice of our people” Aung San Suu Kyi, and called the coup “shocking.”
Cardinal Bo is a longtime supporter of democratic rule in Burma. In his statement, he urged the country’s military to avoid the use of violence against civilians.
“Sadly, the elected representatives of our people belonging to NLD are under arrest. So are many writers, activists and youth,” he said. The NLD is Burma’s political party National League for Democracy, which outperformed the military-backed party in November’s elections.
“I urge you, respect their rights and release them at the earliest,” Cardinal Bo urged the military. “They are not prisoners of war; they are prisoners of a democratic process. You promise democracy; start with releasing them.”
The Holy See’s permanent observer to the UN Human Rights Council, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, said on Friday that the Vatican was praying for the people of Burma.
He asked those in power to serve “the common good of fundamental human and civil rights, of promoting social justice and national stability, for a harmonious, democratic and peaceful coexistence.”
In his Nov., 2017 visit to Burma, Pope Francis stressed the importance of the country’s religions in bringing about reconciliation and unity. He praised the work of those building “a just, reconciled and inclusive social order” in Burma, in a speech to Aung San Suu Kyi, civil authorities and the diplomatic corps.