St. Matthew Church in Loikaw Diocese was destroyed in a fire set by occupying troops before they left the area
St. Matthew Church in Dognekhu village of Loikaw Diocese seen soon after it was destroyed in a fire started by Myanmar's military junta on June 15. (Photo supplied)
A Catholic church and several civilian homes in the eastern Myanmar's Kayah state have been burned down by junta troops.
St. Matthew Church in Dognekhu Parish of Loikaw Diocese was set ablaze on June 15.
Soldiers had encamped inside the church and burned it down along with several homes before leaving the area, according to church sources.
Local media reports said fighting between the military and Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) has intensified in Phrosuo and Demoso townships of Kayah state since June 6.
At least nine Catholic churches have been hit by artillery shelling and airstrikes by Myanmar’s military in Loikaw Diocese since the conflict between military and rebel forces erupted in May 2021.
Myanmar’s junta has continued targeting churches and civilian properties in states like Kayah, which have sizable Christian populations, while also attacking historic Catholic villages in Bamar Buddhist-majority regions, killing innocent people and burning homes and livestock.
The latest attack on a church came only a few days after bishops appealed to parties in the conflict to respect the sanctity of places of worship, hospitals and schools
The worst attack was reported from Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Kanyantharyar, a village near Loikaw, on May 23, 2021, that left four Catholics dead and eight others wounded in artillery shelling.
The latest attack on a church came only a few days after bishops appealed to parties in the conflict to respect the sanctity of places of worship, hospitals and schools.
“Human dignity and the right to life can never be compromised,” the bishops said in a June 11 statement that demanded “respect for life, respect for the sanctity of sanctuary in places of worship, hospitals and schools again.”
Some 16 parishes out of 38 in Loikaw Diocese have been abandoned by priests, nuns and parishioners who have fled to safe areas following intensified fighting.
More than 1,900 people including over 100 children have been killed and over 14,000 detained since the coup on Feb.1, 2021.
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