Thousands of Christians began a fast throughout Burma on Wednesday to pray for the release of arrested pro-democracy protesters and for peace to prevail in Burma.

A local resident in Myitkyina, in upper Burma’s Kachin State, said about 6,000 people from 57 parishes in the Myitkyina region were participating in the fast from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. in various churches. Collections were taken for the relief of needy people.

“They pray for a change of mind by the Burmese military leaders,” he said.

Pastors of some churches were reported to have condemned the junta for its violent crackdown on dissension.

Other fasts were being held in Bamaw, Lashio, Moekaung, Mohnyin, Kengtung, and in Rangoon and Mandalay divisions.

The fasts were organized by members of the Myitkyina-based Kachin Baptist Convention.

The Kachin Independence Organization, the biggest ethnic Kachin ceasefire group, which signed a truce with the Burmese military junta in February 1994, had no comment to make on the fast, a KIO official.