International community must act after Myanmar coup, say Christian leaders

(Photo: Reuters / NLD / Handout)Nobel peace prize laureates, Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) and South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu (L) speak at Suu Kyi's house in Yangon, February 26, 2013.

Christians from different traditions are looking to the international community to take action after a military coup in Myanmar - also called Burma where politicians, journalists and human rights activists were arbitrarily locked up.

A Catholic Mission leader in Australia said on Feb.1 he has "tremendous concern" for the people of Myanmar after the military coup that has resulted in the arrest of civilian leaders, and the cutting of flights and the internet.

The military in Myanmar staged the Feb. 1 coup and detained top political leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

A Nobel Peace Pirze laureate, Suu Kyi received strong criticism during her leadership for not speaking out on the perecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority.

The military declared a state of emergency and said General Min Aung Hlaing would be in charge of the country for 12 months because the government had not acted on the military's claims of fraud in November's elections and because it allowed for an election despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Twelve months could easily lead to 12 years in terms of the military's past performance. Let's hope not," Melbourne director of Catholic Mission, Kevin Meese, said.

Military rule in Myanmar lasted from 1962 to 2011 before resuming again with the latest coup.

Buddhist account for some 88 percent of the country's 57 milliojn people while just ocer 6 percent are Christians and more than 4 percent Muslims.

In the UK, Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Senior Analyst for East Asia, Benedict Rogers, called for the "immediate and unconditional release" of lAung San Suu Kyi, Win Myint and other pro-democracy leaders following their arrest in the coup.

"The events of the past few days and especially the past 24 hours are a desperate step backwards for Burma," he was quoted as saying by Christian Today.

"We urge all sides to engage in meaningful dialogue, peaceful talks and negotiation.

"We urge the military to respect the democratic process, and we call for international mediation to help all sides to reach an agreed way forward."


Failing this, Rogers said the international community should impose the "toughest possible" targeted sanctions on Myanmar's military leaders and their enterprises, as well as foreign investment in those enterprises.

The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet had said was "gravely concerned" at the removal of the civilian government in Myanmar and the arbitrary detention of dozens of political leaders, human rights activists, journalists, and others.

"There are also disturbing reports of journalists being harassed or attacked, and restrictions on the Internet and social media – which will restrict access to information and freedom of expression at this critical and frightening time for the people of Myanmar," the UN human rights chief said.

When Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, the Norwegian Nobel Committee dubbed her struggle against the country's military junta "one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades," The Washington Post reports

"Even now, after her reputation has been tarnished by allegations that as Myanmar's leader she turned a blind eye to ethnic cleansing and genocide, there are few who doubt Suu Kyi's bravery. Many, however, would question her wisdom," wrote the  Post.

She was the daughter of a revered independence figure, and placed under house arrest shortly after returning to Myanmar in 1988.

She stood her ground, refusing to relent or retreat and suffered 15 years of house arrest, becoming a global symbol for democracy.

After Suu Kyi's arrest on Feb. 1 and amost three decades after her Nobel Peace Prize win, there is little global support for her after her journey from political prisoner to pariah politician, according to the Post.

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