A Catholic charity has called for a day of prayer for Burma on the first anniversary of the military coup in the Southeast Asian country.

The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) invited Catholics on Jan. 27 to observe the day of prayer on Feb. 1, the day in 2021 when the armed forces seized power in the country officially known as Myanmar.

“With this day of prayer, ACN wants to remember the dead and intercede for the innocent civilian population, especially for internally displaced persons including children, women, elderly, and the sick in the afflicted areas, regardless of ethnicities and faiths,” the charity said.

“Let us pray for all these thousands on the move, many of them at risk of starving.”

ACN called attention to a statement issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) on Jan. 14.

“As the CBCM stands for justice, peace, reconciliation, it strongly demands all concerned to facilitate humanitarian access to suffering and internally displaced peoples in order to provide them the basic humanitarian assistance,” the bishops said.

“Human dignity and the right to life can never be compromised. We strongly demand respect for life, respect for the sanctity of sanctuary in places of worship, hospitals, and schools. All those who reach out to help the people must be protected.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s elected civilian leader, was detained along with the country’s President Win Myint after the military seized power in the early hours of Feb. 1, 2021.

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Soldiers attempted to repress mass protests that followed the coup. According to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, almost 1,500 people have been killed in the crackdown and nearly 12,000 arrested as of Jan. 28.

In addition to repression, Burma’s 54 million population is facing steep rises in food and fuel prices. The United Nations World Food Programme reported last year that up to 3.4 million more people will go hungry as a result of pre-existing poverty, the coronavirus crisis, and political instability.

Since the coup, Pope Francis has called repeatedly for harmony in the country, which borders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand.

The pope celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica last May for Burmese Catholics, urging them not to lose hope as their homeland is engulfed by violence.

Although Catholics only constitute around 1% of the population, which is majority Buddhist, they have been caught up in the violence.

A video of a religious sister kneeling before police, begging them not to attack protestors in northern Burma, went viral in March 2021.

Military forces are reported to have shelled churches and arrested Catholic priests.

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“One year after the military coup in Myanmar, let us pray to God to move the hearts of those who can facilitate access to suffering and internally displaced peoples, to provide them basic humanitarian assistance,” said ACN.

“Let us pray also for the respect for life and for the inviolability of sanctuaries of worship, hospitals, and schools.”