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Catholic church attacked in Myanmar's conflict-torn Kachin

Military blamed for firing randomly in village as crackdown continues against Kachin Independence Army

Catholic church attacked in Myanmar's conflict-torn Kachin

Holy Family Catholic Church in Kamaing Kawng Ra village in Kachin State was hit by Myanmar military fire on May 30. (Photo courtesy of Free Burma Rangers)

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar

June 6, 2018

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A Catholic church has been damaged in Kachin State as sporadic fighting continues between Myanmar's military and Kachin rebels.

Holy Family Catholic Church and a nearby house were attacked by Myanmar's military in Kamaing Kawng Ra village in Hpakant township, according to witnesses.

Parish priest Father Peter Nlam Tu said he heard an explosion near the village on the evening of May 30 and some minutes later heard shots.

He said it appeared that soldiers had fired at random, leaving bullet holes in the church building and his house. An unexploded mortar shell landed in the church compound.

"The next day, the military came and took the unexploded shell. They didn't question me about the attack nor talk about who did it," Father Nlam Tu told ucanews.com.

Tang Lung, a local catechist, said he and the priest were having a meeting with internally displaced persons (IDPs) when the attack happened. He said four bullet holes were seen in the church.

"We informed the village administrator, police and firefighters about the unexploded shell and then they talked to the military, who came and took it the next day," Lung told ucanews.com.

An unexploded mortar shell was found in the Holy Family Catholic Church compound. (Photo courtesy of Free Burma Rangers)

 

A second shell exploded near a home, sending shrapnel fragments through the bamboo walls and grazing the cheek of a 22-month-old girl.

About 300 Catholics in Kamaing Kawng Ra and some 45 IDPs who fled their homes a month ago are taking shelter at a hall near the church compound.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Mongkoe township in Shan State was hit by Myanmar military airstrikes on Dec. 3.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Kutkai in Shan State was hit by small artillery shelling in February 2015.

Over 60 Christian churches have been destroyed in Kachin State since a long-standing ceasefire broke down in 2011, according to British advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Most of the state's 1.7 million Kachins are Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.

More than 100,000 people remain displaced in Kachin and Shan states since fighting restarted on June 9, 2011.

Myanmar's military has stepped up its offensive in Kachin since early April by launching attacks against the Kachin Independence Army using heavy artillery, helicopters and jet fighters.

More than 7,400 people have been sheltering at both Catholic and Baptist churches, according to the United Nations.

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