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Adapted from FIDES Agency

       MYM, 2 February 2023 -- There is a ghostly silence in the cities, villages and countryside of Myanmar today (February 1, 2023). Large parts of the civilian population, religious communities, associations, companies and ordinary citizens have joined the silent strike that the democratic forces of Myanmar called for on the second anniversary of the military coup on February 1, 2021. Two years ago, General Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the "State Administrative Council," as the military junta is officially known, seized power after overthrowing a democratically elected parliament over alleged irregularities in the November 2020 election.

       The people's protests, which turned into a movement of civil disobedience and mass peaceful dissent, were suppressed and gradually turned into an armed opposition, from which emerged the "People's Defense Forces", which were formed in many cities and regions.

       "Conditions in the country have continued to deteriorate and have become terrible for countless innocent people in Myanmar," said Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar. "The Burmese army commits war crimes and crimes against humanity on a daily basis, including sexual violence, torture, targeting of civilians and murder," he affirmed, reporting that there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people who are victims of the civil war. They are being forced to seek refuge in the forests due to the lack of adequate shelter, food and medical care, humanitarian aid, social services and education, Fides sources in Myanmar also confirm.

       According to the United Nations, at least 70,000 Burmese refugees have already fled the country.

       Almost 3,000 civilians were killed in the military actions, including pro-democracy protesters. Thousands are killed in army offensives against ethnic militias. Military attacks have killed 265 children over the past two years, 59 of whom were aged 9 or younger. Burmese forces burned around 50,000 houses across Myanmar as part of the crackdown on the insurgency. The armies of the Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Karenni and Karen ethnic minorities have in part merged with the People's Defense Forces.

       According to the Association for the Support of Political Prisoners (Burma), 13,680 people are still detained on political grounds. Among the detainees are leaders of the ousted "National League for Democracy," which won elections in 1990, 2015 and 2020. Former State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, is currently serving a 33-year prison sentence. The junta also handed down 143 death sentences: Among those executed were MP Zeya Thaw and dissident poet Jimmy Ko, accused of "threatening public peace".

       "International instruments such as the Hague Convention call for the protection of places of worship, schools and hospitals: it is with pain and concern that we ask: why are these holy places being attacked and destroyed?", meanwhile, the country's religious leaders write in a recently released joint message, condemns the attacks on churches and monasteries and calls for a cessation of hostilities and for peace.

       Let us follow Pope Francis with his frequent appeals for peace and prayer by the worldwide Catholic community!

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