The Bishops of Asia have joined the call of the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis, for a global ceasefire in the face of the unprecedented threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC), said in a statement that they were calling for “an end to hostilities worldwide”. Without cessation of fighting everywhere, “the suffering of many will be prolonged the world over and healing delayed indefinitely.”
The Cardinal said: “The whole planet is in crisis. The pandemic’s consequences are catastrophic for public health and for social and economic life. If we truly wish Myanmar to emerge a united, peaceful, prosperous people, now is the time for speedy, aggressive, respectful decision. Now is the time for wise, coherent, future oriented action. This is no time to escalate conflict, but to end the disease of war that is devastating our world.”
The message takes up the words addressed by Pope Francis who, visiting Myanmar in 2017, recalled that “conflicts are not resolved through war and antagonism, and differences must be overcome through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”
Referring to Myanmar, the Archbishop of Yangon said: “Myanmar’s national and ethnic group leaders are able to choose between the path that seeks trust and cooperation for the good of all and so unite the nation,” but he notes that “heightened military operations, by whatever sides, contradict all these enlightened initiatives. Civilians are endangered, even by bombardments purportedly aimed at military targets. 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.”
“The fury of the virus illustrates the madness of war,” the Cardinal said, quoting Antonio Guterres.
The message praises nations in various parts of the world that have already responded positively to the call for peace, such as Cameroon, the Philippines, Yemen and Syria. It urges all armed groups to lay down their arms and arm themselves with sincerity and truth” and take “the most difficult path of overcoming differences face to face with courage and intelligence.”