In an attempt to calm the situation in Sri Lanka, Pope Francis on Wednesday urged officials in the country to respect human rights and civil liberties and “listen to the hopes of the people.”
The country has seen unrest as it faces its worst economic crisis. Some protesters have blamed former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for the massive shortage of basics such as food, fuel and medicine.
The protests have gotten to the point that soldiers patrolling the streets of the economic capital, Colombo, have orders to shoot anyone who damages property or threatens lives.
“I appeal to all those who have responsibility to listen to the hopes of the people, guaranteeing full respect for human rights and civil liberties,” the pope said.
In a tweet, he appealed to “everyone to maintain a peaceful approach, without giving in to violence.”
Sri Lanka is about 7% Christian, with most of those identifying as Catholic.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is also calling on Sri Lankan authorities to prevent further violence by addressing the country’s economic crisis through meaningful dialogue.
The fallout from weeks of mounting anger over soaring prices, fuel shortages and power cuts has been great. Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister Monday following a day of escalating violence.
Peaceful protests turned into deadly riots after supporters of the prime minister reportedly attacked demonstrators Colombo and angry mobs subsequently assaulted members of the ruling party.
Some information in this report comes from Reuters.