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12/25/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – On December 23, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo hosted a Christmas celebration together with two auxiliary bishops at his residence in Yangon. The presence of one guest invited for the occasion, shocked the restive nation – coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

According to UCA News, the archbishop of Yangon and the general cut a Christmas cake together and the military chief also donated US$11,000 to the cardinal for church funds.

In a message stating that peace and peacemaking represent the core message of Christmas, he said, “I encourage and request all people from all walks of life to make extraordinary efforts to bring peace, unity and development to the country through forgiveness, mutual respect, creating opportunities for the younger generation, sincere dialogue and reconciliation with all our people.”

He also conveyed Pope Francis’ concern for the nation, as the Pope is deeply saddened by the current situation in the country and repeated his appeal to work hard for peace, development, and joy.

However, Cardinal Bo’s gesture caused a strong pushback from the Catholic community in the Buddhist majority nation, especially given the Burmese Army’s (Tatmadaw) increased attacks on civilians including air strikes and shelling in Karen, Chin, Kayah and Kachin states where Christians form the majority.

UCA News reports that the Independent Catholics for Justice in Myanmar condemned the meeting, saying it ignored the suffering of the people who have been oppressed and killed and the bombing of churches.

“The meeting is not representing the whole Catholic community in the country as it is against the will of all Catholics,” the group said in a statement.

The group feels that the meeting exposed the disregard and insult to the people of Myanmar who have suffered murder, lawless seizures, torture, and devastation of the many churches since in the beginning of the coup d’état in February.

Thailand-based human rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), says more than 1,300 people have been killed by security forces since the coup and 10,900 civilians detained.

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