"We pray for peace and the future of the country," said Anglican Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay, the leader of the Anglican church in Burma, which the military government calls Myanmar. In comments released to religious media, the bishop said he is praying for the nation as thousands of people have continued to protest this week, in defiance of warnings by authorities.

The Burmese Catholic Church said it has launched a national prayer campaign with the archbishop of Rangoon, also called Yangon, Charles Maung Bo, reportedly calling on "the dioceses of Myanmar to join together in prayer and do all that is possible to help the population and our nation."

Even before the latest violence broke out, a BosNewsLife team established in border areas with Thailand that predominantly Christian Karens are praying for Burma, while on the run for an ongoing government-backed military offensive against them.     

So far the military government said at least 9 people were killed since the violence in Rangoon began earlier this week, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday, September 28, he believed that the death toll in Burma was "far greater" than being reported. "I am afraid we believe the loss of life is far greater than is being reported so far," he said, after talks with United States President George W. Bush and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.


Among those killed was Japanese video journalist Kenji NagaiJournalist Kenji Nagai was shot and killed by a soldier. , 50, who was being thrown to the ground by a soldier and shot at close range, according to television footage shown on Japan’s Fuji News Network.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it is "outraged by the apparently deliberate fatal shooting" of the Japanese cameraman by a Burmese soldier on Thursday, September 27.

The Japanese embassy in Burma said the bullet entered Nagai’s body from the lower right side of his chest, pierced his heart, and exited from his back. "Their statement contradicts Burmese authorities’ claims that Nagai was killed by a stray bullet. Nagai, dressed in shorts and sandals, was clearly a foreigner and a journalist, who was carrying a video camera at the time he was shot," the CPJ added.

“The government’s use of violence to suppress political dissent has now taken the life of a journalist,” said CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon. “The apparently cold-blooded killing of Kenji Nagai by Burmese government troops cannot go unaddressed. We call on the government to ensure the safety of all journalists covering this unrest."

Nagai, 50, who was working for APF News, a video and photo agency based in Tokyo, was one of those killed by government troops during anti-government demonstrations Thursday, September 27, according to official state-run television. Another 11 demonstrators and 31 security force members were injured, the broadcast reportedly said.

"200 KILLED" 

Dissidents and Burmese rights groups, including the United States Campaign for Burma, said "up to 200 peaceful demonstrators" were killed when security forces fired this week at pro-democracy demonstrators. Those numbers were impossible to verify independently as the authorities have banned foreign journalists and on Friday, September 28, cut Internet access in many parts of the country.

Despite these setbacks, witnesses said people returned for an 11th day of protests Friday, September 28, in several places including in Rangoon, despite shootings.

Speaking by telephone, one of the protestors said Friday’s rallies happened at the Sule Pagoda, which has been a focal point of the demonstrations. She said police and soldiers used live ammunition and batons against the demonstrators. "There were a few hundred people singing the national anthem and then the soldiers shoot at them. Then, about 40 were taken away," she said in comments aired by the Voice of America (VOA). 

Witnesses said there were fewer Buddhist monks among the protesters than in recent days. Security forces have been raiding monasteries and rounding up hundreds of monks who the government accuses of instigating the protests, several reports said. Christians were also believed to be on edge Friday, September 28, as they have been often singled out for abuse and attacks, according to rights watchers.

Christianity is seen as a threat to the ideology and power base of the military government, said Christian Freedom International (CFI). Although some 80 per cent of Burma’s population of roughly 42 million is Buddhist, many people among tribal minorities, including Shan, Karen, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine, Mon, Wa, Padaung, Akh, Lahu, and others have converted to Christianity, experts say.  (With BosNewsLife Senior International Correspondent Agnes R. Bos, previous reporting from Burma by BosNewsLife and other reporting from Burma, New York and London).


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