Church sounds alert over border clashes

Priests urged to help refugees fleeing fighting between troops, Kachin rebels

Church sounds alert over border clashes
Kachin Catholics in their traditional costume seen in a Church compound reporter, Mandalay, Myanmar

June 17, 2011

Church authorities in the north of the country are voicing concern over the safety of people fleeing clashes between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels near the Chinese border. The first priority is for parishes to coordinate their efforts and assist refugees in getting to safety; the second is providing aid to those coming to churches seeking help, a meeting between the bishop and Church officials in Banmaw diocese concluded yesterday. “We’re urging parish priests to go among these people as we are the Good Shepherd and they need our physical present among them,” Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw said yesterday. Fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army broke out on June 9. Refugees have sought shelter in churches in the villages of Laiza, Loije and Man Win, while others have fled across the Chinese border according to Kachin sources. Bishop Gam says the Church has supplies of food available at boarding schools should it be needed. The schools themselves have closed as a result of the fighting. Concern is growing the clashes may escalate into a full-scale war. Meanwhile, the largest Kachin church in Myanmar, the Kachin Baptist Convention, has issued a statement urging its members to pray to God for a resolution to the growing crisis in Kachin State. “Many places are threatened, people are living under hard conditions and tensions are increasing everywhere,” the statement said. Related report Church helps hungry Karen villagers