Catholic church attacked in conflict-ravaged Myanmar

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A Catholic church in Kayah State, a Catholic stronghold in eastern Myanmar, was damaged by indiscriminate military bombardment.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Phruso Township was hit by artillery fire on October 13. Phruso is located 32 kilometers from Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State.

Church leaders said there were no casualties despite the building’s roof and walls severely damaged and windows shattered by the shelling.

Father Francis Soe Naing, chancellor of the Diocese of Loikaw, said priests and nuns were present during the attack, but residents of the parish had already fled to safe areas.

“There was fighting outside the town of Phruso, but the attack on the church occurred despite no clashes in the town,” the priest told UCA News.

It is the fifth Catholic church in the Diocese of Loikaw to be attacked by the army in five months.

Medicines urgently needed for growing number of internally displaced people, though Church tries best to meet as funds dwindle

Sacred Heart Church in Kantharyar, a village near Loikaw, was hit by artillery fire that killed four Catholics and injured at least eight others on May 23, while St. Joseph’s Church in the town of Demoso, the scene of heavy fighting, was hit by military artillery. May 26. The cathedral and Marian shrine in the diocese of Pekhon were also damaged by artillery five months ago.

At least 10 parishes in the Diocese of Loikaw have been affected by the recent conflict which has displaced more than 100,000 people, including Catholics, who have taken refuge in churches, convents and parents’ homes.

“Medicines are urgently needed for the growing number of internally displaced people, although the Church is doing its best to meet them as funds dwindle,” said Father Soe Naing.

He added that more aid will be needed for the displaced as they abandon their traditional agricultural work.

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The latest attack on a church came as fighting escalated between the Karenni army and army and local defense forces in Kayah state and neighboring Shan state.

Kayah state, a remote and mountainous region, is considered a stronghold of Catholicism in the predominantly Buddhist country. About 90,000 Catholics live in the state with a population of 355,000.

The growing conflict in the country, especially in Kayah, Chin and Kachin states, has resulted in bombings and raids on churches. Priests and pastors have been arrested while scores of unarmed civilians, including Christians, have been killed.

Christian leaders, including Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, have called for the protection of religious buildings as places of worship and cultural assets of a community covered by international protocols.

The Southeast Asian nation is on the brink of civil war after intense fighting in several regions in the eight months following the February 1 coup.

On October 3, Pope Francis launched a new call for peace in the besieged country by imploring “the gift of peace” from God for the nation which has suffered so much suffering in recent months.

He repeatedly called on the military leaders to end the violence, release all those detained and continue the dialogue to seek peace.

The Southeast Asian nation is on the brink of civil war after intense fighting in several regions in the eight months following the February 1 coup.

Civilians in ethnic areas, including predominantly Christian areas of Kayah, Chin, Kachin and Karen states, have been most affected by the resumption of conflict where people have long faced oppression and persecution under an iron military regime for more than five decades.

The conflict triggered by the coup has forced more than 240,000 people from their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

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