Church pleads for donors amid Myanmar IDP crisis

Funds are drying up while the number of displaced people rises amid escalating conflict

UCA News reporter

Updated: August 18, 2022 09:30 AM GMT

This handout photo from Amnesty International taken between June 27 and July 4, 2022 and released on July 20 shows a Christian church destroyed after being landmined and burned down by the Myanmar military, according to the rights group, in Daw Ngay Ku village in Hparuso township, in eastern Myanmar's Kayah state. (Photo: AFP/Amnesty International)

Church officials in conflict-torn Myanmar are seeking help from donors as an increasing number of displaced people are in desperate need of aid.

They said the Church is facing a major challenge caused by a decrease in funding from donors to provide for the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) whose numbers are increasing day by day.

We are struggling to continue our mission of providing humanitarian assistance to IDPs as donations are falling while they are in dire need of food, medicines and shelter, a senior clergyman from Loikaw Diocese told UCA News.

They are facing various difficulties such as no work, no income and they have to depend on aid from donors. It would be very hard for them to live a day without aid from various donors, he said.

Thousands of displaced people who fled from Loikaw diocese that covers Myanmar's northeastern Kayah state remain in churches, makeshift camps and remote villages as it is not safe to return home, according to aid groups.

Fighting has escalated between the military and people's defense forces in the Catholic stronghold of Kayah state where the junta's forces have reportedly conducted indiscriminate air strikes and shelling, forcing the exodus of thousands of people including women, children and the elderly.

Priests, nuns and parishioners from abandoned parishes still cannot return

At least 170,000 civilians in Kayah state — more than half of its population of 300,000 — have been forced to abandon their homes, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network.

At least seven Catholic churches have been hit by artillery fire and air strikes by Myanmar's military in Loikaw diocese, with 16 out of 38 parishes severely affected by the intensifying fighting.

Priests, nuns and parishioners from abandoned parishes still cannot return and they have already lost so many things such as their homes and property, said the clergyman who did not wish to be named.

Catholic bishops in Myanmar have called for humanitarian access to IDPs to provide for their basic needs.

Pope Francis, who has repeatedly called for peace and reconciliation in Myanmar since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup, had also appealed for humanitarian corridors to allow safe passage for those fleeing.

At least five dioceses — Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay and Mandalay — of 16 in Myanmar have been severely affected by ongoing conflicts.

The Southeast Asian nation is facing a humanitarian disaster triggered by a political crisis after the military seized power and toppled elected civilian leaders in February 2021.

The crisis has dragged on despite the Association of Southeast Asian Nations leading diplomatic efforts to resolve it, but its response has been ineffective in pressuring the military regime.

Some 1,249,600 people are now displaced nationwide including 903,000 who remain displaced as a result of conflict and insecurity since the coup, according to a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report released on Aug. 16.

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