Updated: May 28, 2021 06:37 AM GMT
Broken windows and several holes in the walls caused by shelling are visible after St. Joseph's Church in Demoso came under attack from the military on May 26. (Photo supplied)
Another church in Kayah state — a Catholic stronghold in eastern Myanmar — has been attacked by the military as fighting rages in the region.
St. Joseph’s Church in Demoso town was hit by artillery fire on May 26 night but there were no casualties, according to church sources.
The church’s windows were broken and several holes in the walls caused by the shelling were also visible.
Catholic sources say no one was inside the church compound as all the people from Demoso township have already fled to safe areas after heavy fighting in the area.
It’s the second church to be attacked by the military after Sacred Heart Church in Kantharyar village near Loikaw was hit with artillery shelling that led to four deaths and eight wounded on May 23 night.
The latest attack came a day after Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon appealed for the protection of religious buildings as places of worship are cultural property of a community covered by international protocols.
We are very concerned about the looming food insecurity among IDPs as more people could be displaced as fighting has spread
He urged all sides not to escalate the conflict. “Our people are poor. Covid-19 has robbed them of their livelihood, starvation stalks millions, the threat of another round of Covid-19 is real. Conflict is a cruel anomaly at this moment,” the prelate said.
Over 50,000 civilians were forced to flee their homes in Kayah and neighboring Shan state and take refuge at churches and convents while others fled into the jungle as fighting escalated between the military and the People’s Defense Forces and Karenni National Progressive Party last weekend.
The Church’s social arm Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar in Loikaw Diocese has been providing humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Father Aloysius Thet Htwe Aung, director of Karuna (Caritas) Loikaw, said the agency has been providing food, shelter, medicines and hygiene kits on a daily basis through Lenten funds and private donors.
People from several townships have fled their homes due to fear of intensifying fighting, and in some parishes only priests and nuns remain.
The number of IDPs has been increasing amid the fighting and there are several areas where the humanitarian response cannot be carried out due to the volatile situation.
“We are very concerned about the looming food insecurity among IDPs as more people could be displaced as fighting has spread to several townships in Kayah state,” Father Thet Htwe Aung told UCA News.
Access restrictions due to lack of security, road blockages, remote terrain, landmines and bureaucratic impediments continue to impede aid delivery across Kayah and elsewhere, according to the UN’s humanitarian update on May 27.
The report said 37,000 people have been displaced in Kayah state and over 45,000 in Karen state, while nearly 10,000 IDPs are in Kachin state and over 10,000 are in the Chin and Magwe regions.
Fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups and local resistance groups has been escalating in Karen, Kachin, Chin and Kayah states following the brutal crackdown against anti-coup protesters by the military that has led to more than 800 deaths.