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Pope calls for end to violence against Myanmar protesters
Tear gas floats around demonstrators at a protest in Yangon03 March 2021. Pope Francis appeals for an end to violence against anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, and calls on the military junta to release political prisoners and allow the country to continue its journey toward democracy.

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis once again lifted his voice in support of the people of Myanmar on Wednesday, in the wake of a deadly crackdown on protesters.

Security forces have killed at least 30 people participating in pro-democracy marches since the military coup on 1 February.

Lamenting the deadly clashes, the Pope called on the ruling military junta to stop the violence.

“I wish to call the attention of authorities involved, so that dialogue might prevail over repression, and harmony over discord,” said Pope Francis.

He also urged the international community to ensure that “the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not suffocated by violence.”

“May the young people of that beloved land be allowed to hope in a future in which hate and injustice give way to encounter and reconciliation,” he said.

Release of political prisoners

The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, seized power in a coup on 1 February, detaining many political leaders.

Aung San Suu Kyi, then the State Counsellor, de facto leader, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was arrested and faces several charges, including causing “fear and alarm” and possessing illegally imported communications equipment.

In his appeal, Pope Francis called on the military junta to release political prisoners and take steps toward restoring democracy.

“Finally, I repeat my appeal expressed one month ago,” he said, “that the journey toward democracy undertaken in recent years by Myanmar might be renewed through the concrete gesture of the liberation of political leaders who are currently incarcerated.”

Violent crackdown

The Pope’s appeal come on the heels of a recent, violent crackdown on protesters.

After nearly a month of peaceful demonstrations against the coup, security forces began using live ammunition against protesters across the country over the weekend.

Just on Wednesday, the same day as the Pope’s appeal at the General Audience, police killed at least 9 people participating in pro-democracy marches.

Estimates put the total death toll at around 30 since 1 February.