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Myanmar

Catholic church attacked in conflict-ravaged Myanmar

Immaculate Conception Church in Phruso township hit by artillery fire, no casualties reported

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 15, 2021 05:27 AM GMT

Updated: October 15, 2021 09:13 AM GMT

Catholic church attacked in conflict-ravaged Myanmar

A motorcyclist waits for Buddhist monks to pass as they collect alms along a street in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Oct. 11. (Photo by AFP)

A Catholic church in Kayah state, a Catholic stronghold in eastern Myanmar, has been damaged by indiscriminate military shelling.

Immaculate Conception Church in Phruso township was hit by artillery fire on Oct. 13. Phruso is 32 kilometers from Loikaw, capital of Kayah state.

Church leaders said there were no casualties despite the building’s roof and walls being badly damaged and the windows being broken by the shelling.

Father Francis Soe Naing, chancellor of Loikaw Diocese, said priests and nuns were present when the attack happened but people from the parish had already fled to safe areas.

“There was fighting outside Phruso town but the attack on the church happened despite no clashes in the town,” the priest told UCA News.

It is the fifth Catholic church in Loikaw Diocese to be attacked by the military in five months.

Medicines are in urgent need for the increasing number of internally displaced people despite the Church trying its best to respond to it amid dwindling funds

Sacred Heart Church in Kantharyar, a village near Loikaw, was hit by artillery shelling that killed four Catholics and wounded at least eight others on May 23, while St. Joseph Church in Demoso town, the scene of fierce fighting, was hit by military artillery on May 26. The cathedral and Marian shrine in Pekhon Diocese were also damaged by artillery five months ago.

At least 10 parishes in Loikaw Diocese have been affected by the recent conflict that has displaced more than 100,000 people, including Catholics, who have taken refuge in churches, convents and relatives’ homes.

“Medicines are in urgent need for the increasing number of internally displaced people despite the Church trying its best to respond to it amid dwindling funds,” Father Soe Naing said.

He added more aid will be needed for displaced people as they abandon their traditional agricultural work.

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The latest attack on a church came as fighting intensified between the military and the Karenni Army and local defense forces in Kayah state and neighboring Shan state.

Kayah state, a remote and mountainous region, is regarded as a stronghold of Catholicism in the Buddhist-majority country. About 90,000 Catholics live in the state with a population of 355,000.

The rising conflict in the country, especially Kayah, Chin and Kachin states, has resulted in churches being shelled and raided. Priests and pastors have been arrested while many unarmed civilians, including Christians, have been killed.

Christian leaders including Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon have called for the protection of religious buildings as places of worship and the cultural property of a community covered by international protocols.

The Southeast Asian nation is on the brink of civil war after intense fighting in several areas in the eight months since the coup on Feb. 1

On Oct. 3, Pope Francis made a fresh appeal for peace in the beleaguered country as he implored “the gift of peace” from God for the nation which has suffered through so much pain in recent months.

He has repeatedly called for military leaders to stop the violence, release all detained people and pursue dialogue to seek peace.

The Southeast Asian nation is on the brink of civil war after intense fighting in several areas in the eight months since the coup on Feb. 1.

Civilians from ethnic regions, including predominantly Christian areas in Kayah, Chin, Kachin and Karen states, have borne the brunt of the renewed conflict where people have long faced oppression and persecution under iron-fisted military rule for more than five decades.

The conflict sparked by the coup has forced more than 240,000 people out of their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

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