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Cardinal’s village hit as Myanmar junta steps up attacks

Hundreds of homes torched during military raid on historic Catholic village of Mon Hla

This handout photo from the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3, 2022 and released on May 4 shows a dog running past the burning remains of a building after airstrikes and mortar attacks by the Myanmar military, according to the Free Burma Rangers, on a village in Doo Tha Htoo district in Myanmar's eastern Kayin state

This handout photo from the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3, 2022 and released on May 4 shows a dog running past the burning remains of a building after airstrikes and mortar attacks by the Myanmar military, according to the Free Burma Rangers, on a village in Doo Tha Htoo district in Myanmar's eastern Kayin state. (AFP)

Published: November 25, 2022 08:01 AM GMT

Updated: November 25, 2022 10:01 AM GMT

Hundreds of homes in the Catholic village of Mon Hla in central Sagaing — the home of Cardinal Charles Bo — have been burned down by junta forces as the regime steps up attacks in Myanmar’s Bamar-majority region.

Villagers said the homes were torched on Nov. 24 during a raid on Mon Hla village where Catholics and Buddhists have lived in harmony for decades.

The exact number of houses destroyed remains unclear and it is not known whether St. Michael Church, the convent and the priest’s house in the village were set on fire.

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“It’s my native village and my heart is also burning when I see the flames come out of the village,” a priest from Mandalay archdiocese wrote on Facebook.

“Oh Mother, we have no home when we return to our native village,” a Catholic woman said.

The latest attack on the Catholic village came a day after fighting broke out between the military and people’s defense forces near Mon Hla where scores of junta troops were killed.

Following the clash, fighter jets attacked the villages, according to local media reports citing the people’s defense forces.

Mon Hla has been repeatedly targeted by the junta. Catholic and Buddhist villagers fled into the jungle to escape military air strikes in July.

The military has also targeted other Catholic villages. At least 800 houses were destroyed by junta troops in the historic Catholic villages of Chan Thar and Chaung Yoe in May and June.

The military regime is specifically targeting these three historic Catholic villages in the Bamar heartland of Sagaing in a bid to stamp out growing resistance by people’s defense forces.

Mon Hla, Chaung Yoe and Chan Thar, which are part of Mandalay archdiocese, are known as Bayingyi villages where people claim descent from Portuguese adventurers who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The villages have produced many bishops, priests and nuns. Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon and Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay are natives of Mon Hla.

“Their villages are becoming a land of ashes lacking homes, trees and birds. I am also deeply sorrowful over the thousands of our brothers and sisters who can’t live in their own homes and instead live in makeshift camps who are facing acute hunger,” Archbishop Tin Win said in July.

Cardinal Bo met with junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing last December when they cut a Christmas cake together, triggering strong criticism from Catholic and other religious communities in the country.

Bo was one of the Christian leaders along with Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu leaders who were recently given an honorary award by the junta leader.

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