A Buddhist monk and a Catholic nun in Myanmar both offered their lives in place of youthful protesters, who marched on Sunday against the military coup that is now a month old.
As police cracked down on marches throughout Myanmar, some 20 protesters were shot dead and scores wounded.
In Myitkyina, in the state of Kachin, Sr. Ann Nu Thawng, a Sister of St. Francis Xavier, knelt down in front of troops, raised her hands into the air and cried out, “Don’t shoot, don’t kill the innocent. If you want, hit me.”
Soldiers seemed surprised at the religious woman’s actions and did not shoot . They even stopped their advance.
Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, quoted Joseph Kung Za Hmung, editor of the “Gloria News Journal,” the first online Catholic newspaper in Myanmar, as saying, “Sr. Ann Nu Thawng is today a role model for Church leaders: bishops and priests are called to step out of the their comfort zones and follow her courage as an example.”
Fides added that more than 100 demonstrators were able to find shelter in Sr. Ann’s convent, protecting them from beatings and arrests.
Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, writing at UCANews, said he was haunted by a number of scenes from recent protests, including Sr. Ann’s gesture, as well as “the image of a monk courageously sitting in the street between the police and protesters, telling the police in this Buddhist-majority nation to shoot him first.”
UCANews reported that hundreds of Catholic laypeople joined by priests and nuns marched in Mandalay, praying the rosary out loud and calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
In a homily on Sunday morning, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, commented the relevance of the day’s Gospel reading, describing the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor.
“What transfiguration are we looking for in Myanmar today?” Cardinal Bo asked. “If we seek it, all the confusion, all the darkness, all the hatred will go away and our country, the famous Land of Gold, will be transfigured into a land of peace and prosperity.”
The cardinal reminded listeners that over the past month, the Church has implored everyone that “peace is the only way; peace is possible.”
“Pope Francis has called for the resolution of all conflicts through dialogue,” Bo said. “Those who want conflict do not want the good of this nation. Let us all become Elijah who proclaims peace, by lighting a lamp of hope in the midst of darkness.”
He prayed for the nation that “has seen so much suffering, so much war, so many deaths” and said, “Like Abraham, we seek a promised land. The promised land comes when we are ready to sacrifice what we consider very dear.”
Saying weapons are unnecessary, he urged Burmese, “We must rearm ourselves through reconciliation and dialogue. Myanmar’s Mount Tabor must be climbed with patience, tolerance, if we are to witness this transfiguration. Evil must disappear, but it cannot be destroyed by another evil.”
The army took power in Myanmar on February 1, declaring a year-long “state of emergency,” after accusing the National League for Democracy, the party of the civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for fraud in the November election.
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