Pope Francis' Mass for Myanmar brings attention, comfort, to a people in crisis

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On February 1, a military coup overthrew the government of Myanmar. 

Now its citizens have been living under a military dictatorship for over a hundred days. 

To show his solidarity with the Burmese people, Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass this Sunday for those from Myanmar living in Rome.

Fr. Maurice Khun is one of them. He says the Pope's Mass is reminder that the people of Myanmar have not been forgotten. 

Missionaries of the Faith
“This gesture by the Holy Father means so much to us. We don't feel abandoned. It's like living in the arms of the Father. We feel consoled, protected, loved.'

In Myanmar, citizens continue to resist the government overthrow by staging large scale protests, such as this march held in Yangon on the 100th day since the coup. 

Chandadie Watawala is the executive director of the Asian Network for Free Elections, an NGO promoting democratic practices throughout Asia. She says the military has resorted to illegal arrests and torture to crackdown on the resistance. 

Executive Director, ANFREL
“So many people are under detention and also receiving torture. These are illegal detentions and also there are no charges, and also they are continuously behind bars.”

This group of more than 30 schoolteachers and students were arrested and taken away by military forces for their role in the resistance. 

Watawala says more attention from the international community is needed to restore order in Myanmar, but that Pope Francis' actions to shed light on the situation in the country are an important first step. 

Executive Director, ANFREL
“I think the people of Myanmar need more attention from the international community. I think that Pope Francis offering Mass and also the praying for the marginalized community it is high attention to the international community. It is more important.”

Since February 1 over 780 people in Myanmar have been killed by the country's military forces, while another 3,800 are currently detained. 

Pope Francis has been one of the most outspoken global leaders on the crisis in Myanmar. 

In 2017 he visited the country and met with the president of the republic and minister of foreign affairs, as well as with the military chief who is now leading the coup. Since the coup began he has repeatedly called for dialogue and reconciliation to restore peace to the nation. 

Justin McLellan

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