Praying the Rosary with fellow parishioners was one way Michael Thang could help bring support for democracy in Myanmar, his ancestral home.
A sophomore at Saint Louis University High School, Thang was joined by about 30 others Feb. 14 in the hall at St. Pius V Church in St. Louis, praying for a return to democracy in Myanmar after a military coup. Thang said he thought of what his theology teacher, Richard Wehner, stresses: Be light for the world.
“This is a way to be light,” Thang said. “Prayer is the strongest way to go against this.”
Father Stephen En Suan Lian, a priest from Myanmar who is studying at Saint Louis University and in residence at St. Pius V Parish in St. Louis, is asking Catholics and others to keep the people of his home country in their prayers. Father Lian asks people to pray for peace, for the release of the detained leaders and for a restoration of democracy. “We pray the Rosary and offer Mass for the freedom of the country,” he explained.
Also, he seeks prayers for the Myanmar community (who refer to themselves as Burmese after the country’s former name, Burma) who live in St. Louis.
A coup in Myanmar Feb. 1 left the military in control under a one-year state of emergency, while the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior politicians have been detained. Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia. The U.S. Department of State calls Myanmar a country in transition to democracy that faces significant ongoing challenges and deeply troubling human rights issues centered on a powerful military that acts with impunity.
Father Lian, who came to the United States in 2014, said the Burmese community is worried about the situation, and he’s reached out to people to calm nerves. “In this modern time, nobody can accept a military dictatorship anymore. Our country has undergone dictatorship for five decades.”
For Burmese Catholics living here, he said, “it’s unimaginable. We can’t believe our eyes.”
The response in Myanmar stressed nonviolence. Though communications were shut down for several days, a United Nations effort resulted in it opening again, “and we can speak to our families,” Father Lian said.
Demonstrations against the coup and defending democracy have occurred in many U.S. cities, including in St. Louis. Besides gathering after Mass at St. Pius V Church on Feb. 7 and 14, several people carried pro-democracy posters and traveled to the St. Louis City Hall Feb. 7 where Father Lian closed the demonstration with prayer.
Pope Francis earlier expressed his solidarity with the people of Myanmar. “The path to democracy undertaken in recent years was brusquely interrupted by last week’s coup d’état. This has led to the imprisonment of different political leaders, who I hope will be promptly released as a sign of encouragement for a sincere dialogue aimed at the good of the country,” Pope Francis said.
St. Pius parishioner Mary Nem said she has friends and relatives, including her grandfather, living in Myanmar. “Their lives are in danger,” she said.
Vincent Zam is among those who want to see freedom there. Zam is happy that St. Pius has welcomed the Burmese Catholic community. “It feels like home for us,” he said.
Myanmar nuns show solidarity with anti-coup protesters
YANGON, Myanmar — Catholic nuns, priests and laypeople have joined protests in Buddhist-majority Myanmar following the Feb. 1 coup.
Ucanews.com reported that hundreds of Catholics, including dozens of nuns, marched on the streets of Yangon Feb. 14 and recited prayers and the Rosary.
Youths held placards reading “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” and “We support CDM,” the latter referring to the civil disobedience movement.
Nuns from various congregations have shown solidarity with the people of Myanmar by marching on the streets, saying prayers at convents and offering snacks to protesters in Yangon and elsewhere, ucanews.com reported.
In the Christian stronghold of Kachin state, nuns stood at the entrance of a church compound while holding placards that read “No to dictatorship” and “Listen to the voices of people,” while protesters swarmed the streets of Myitkyina, the state’s capital city, Feb. 14.
Nationwide anti-coup protests have intensified for nine consecutive days in Yangon, Mandalay, villages and the ethnic regions of Kachin and Chin states, ucanews.com reported. Reports indicated that security forces opened fire Feb. 14 to disperse protestors.
Fifteen embassies, including those of the European Union and Britain, issued a statement late Feb. 15 calling on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians who are protesting the overthrow “of their legitimate government.”
The U.N.’s 47-member Human Rights Council has called on Myanmar’s military to restore civilian rule and immediately release civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Vatican said it has been following with “great attention and deep concern” the developments in Myanmar, which Pope Francis visited in November 2017.