Thai Catholics Try to Bridge Divide

As Thailand’s political crisis continues, Catholic university students in Bangkok are taking action to promote peace and prevent further outbreaks of violence. The Catholic University Students Centre of Thailand, based at Xavier Hall, the Jesuits’ residence in Bangkok, has been encouraging its members to meet “red-shirts” and their opponents in order to listen to their views. It has also urged members to join civic peace movements, visit people injured in the protests and to take individual action to promote peace in the country. “The church as an institution cannot get involved directly, but it can and should encourage laypersons to try and help solve the country’s problems,” said the center’s chaplain, Maharsono Probho, S.J. “The center is encouraging students to listen and get as much information as possible from both sides about their grievances and demands.” The red-shirts, many of whom are allied to the ousted former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, have occupied Bangkok’s major business and commercial districts for almost two months in an effort to force the government to call snap elections. Clashes with security forces have killed at least 26 people and injured hundreds of others.

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