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Religious Lead Prayer for Peace and Freedom in Burma
By Lucas Naw
Abroad, Dec. 2. ROME, 1 Dec -- Over 250 people took part in the prayer service for peace and freedom in Burma, held in the Church of San Marcello, Rome, November 30. The promoters of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creature (JPIC) Rome organised it to commemorate the second month of the Burmese military`s crackdown over the peaceful protest of the monks against junta military. JPIC is an inter-congregational initiative of members from various religious congregations. Burmese priests, sisters and seminarians studying in Rome joined the prayer and protest organised by congregations working in Burma.
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Sister Addresses Assembly
``We will pray together for the present and for the future of this Nation, which suffered for many years under the dictatorship of a violent and oppressive military regime. We shall share our dreams of peace and freedom with Burmese youths and pray that it is fulfilled soon,`` prayed a Sister introducing the evening with a brief history of the recent military repression in Myanmar.

Historical and Political Background
Burma has been ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962. In 1988 millions of people took to the streets in a nationwide call for democracy. Among them was Aung San Suu Kyi, who helped found the National League for Democracy (NLD). The military responded to this growing movement by sending troops on to the streets, massacring over 3,000 people, many of them monks and students. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest.

Thinking it had crushed the democracy movement, the regime held surprisingly free, though not fair, elections in 1990. The NLD swept to victory, winning 82 percent of the seats in Parliament. The military refused to accept the results of the election, and has clung on to power ever since. Committing all sorts of injustice and cancelling every trace of democracy, the illegitimate and corrupted military government continued to rule the country.

Peaceful Nationwide Protest by Monks
From September 17, 2007 thousands of Buddhist monks in Myanmar took to the street to protest peacefully against the Junta military. On September 26, the junta brutally oppressed the peaceful nationwide protests led by Buddhist monks, killing more than 200 people and arresting the protesters.
- Today, more than 1,200 political prisoners are still languishing in the state prison without proper food and medicine.
- About 70,000 children are forced to enrol in the military service.
- Presently, many monasteries are forced to close down and soldiers still search for dissident monks and people who participated in the protests.

We Cannot Remain Silent
``After the stifled march of the monks, it is our turn to raise our voices in protest. The people of Burma are in need of our help more than ever before. Being silent would mean another condemnation of their tragic situation. How long the conscience of the world will tolerate this violent military regime, ready to commit any sort of crime to hold on to power?`` a priest asked.

The most touching part of the prayer service was presentation of a harp (Saung). A harp is  symbol of Burma and saung is a sign of harmony of cultures and traditions of the people signifying the desire for communion, peace and freedom. While explaining the meaning of harp, two religious sisters vested in Burmese traditional costumes, accompanied by typical Burmese music brought the harp to the altar. A Burmese seminarian concluded the presentation by reading from the Letter of St. Paul to Ephesus (Eph 2, 14-18) where he speaks of  peace as a gift of God.

The prayer service concluded with a group song Tu, l`amore che da vita (You, love that gives life) sung by Sisters from Burma, Italy, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines as well as a dance of the light la danza della luce by Vietnamese Sisters, invoking God`s peace and freedom for the people of Burma in solidarity.
Photo by MoeMoe

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