Third Catholic church in eastern Myanmar hit by military strikes

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People displaced in northwest Myanmar by fighting between junta forces and anti-junta fighters march in Chin State on May 31, 2021. A third church in Kayah State, a Catholic stronghold in eastern Myanmar, was damaged by indiscriminate bombing by the military on June 6. (CNS / Reuters photo)

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) – Another church in Kayah State, a Catholic stronghold in eastern Myanmar, has been damaged by indiscriminate shelling by the military.

Military fire hit the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Peace in the village of Dungankha on the morning of June 6.

The walls of the church were badly damaged and the windows were smashed by the shelling.

It was the third church in Kayah State to be attacked by the military in two weeks. 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 the night of May 23. One of the main fighting areas, St. Joseph’s Church in Demoso, was hit by military artillery on the night of May 26.

The latest attack came despite a plea by Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, for the protection of religious buildings as places of worship and cultural property of a community covered by international protocols. He also urged the parties concerned to end the fighting in the conflict-torn country.

Artillery bombardments by the army also reportedly damaged the Jeroblou Marian shrine in Pekhon near Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, on the night of June 6. However, the information could not be independently confirmed.

The army stepped up artillery attacks on June 6 in Dungankha against the Karenni People’s Defense Forces, known as the KPDF. Indiscriminate shelling hit homes and a school, local media reported.

More than 100,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in Kayah and neighboring Shan State. They have sought refuge in churches and convents while others fled into the jungle as fighting between the military and the KPDF has been unfolding since May 21.

The social branch of the church, Karuna Loikaw, which is affiliated with Caritas Internationalis, provided humanitarian assistance to the displaced people in collaboration with the diocese’s emergency response committee.

Father Aloysius Thet Htwe Aung, director of Karuna Loikaw, said the agency was struggling to respond to the hundreds of internally displaced people. He said the fighting had spread to other areas, prompting more people to consider fleeing their homes.

“We strive to meet the needs of people, including those in remote areas,” he told UCA News.

The state of Kayah is considered a stronghold of Catholicism in the predominantly Buddhist country. About 90,000 Catholics live in a state of 355,000 inhabitants.

More than 175,000 people have been displaced in Kachin, Karen, Chin, Kayah and Shan states since a February 1 military coup overthrew the country’s government, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. refugees.

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Copyright © 2021 Catholic News Service / United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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