Kachin Catholics carry a Marian statue during a peace procession held in Myitkyina, Kachin State on May 28. (Photo by Hkun Awng Nlam)
Catholics displaced by the ongoing conflict in Myanmar's Kachin State joined thousands of others for a Marian peace procession through the state capital Myitkyina.
Some 7,000 Kachin Catholics took part in the procession led by Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina on May 28.
Father Peter Hka Awng Tu, parish priest of St. Columban's Cathedral in Myitkyina, said some 1,000 internally displaced people (IDP) now living in nearby camps joined the procession.
"We prayed and said the rosary to Mother Mary, who is the Queen of Peace, for peace in Kachin State and elsewhere in Myanmar," Father Awng Tu told ucanews.com.
The priest said hostilities between Kachin rebels and the Myanmar military was ongoing. He said there were reports that some civilians trying to avoid the fighting remained trapped in jungle areas.
More than 3,000 people have taken refuge at Catholic Churches in Myitkyina, Tanai, Letwa, Namti and Tangphre, said Father Awng Tu.
Procession attendees at the Marian grotto at St. Columban's Cathedral in Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State. (Photo by Hkun Awng Nlam)
Joseph Tang Sham who is newly displaced from a village near Inngyanyan township said he hoped God would fulfill their prayers for peace in Kachin State and elsewhere in Myanmar.
"We want to go back home but we can't return because fighting may erupt again," said Tang Sham who took part in the Marian procession.
Patrick Gum Seng, a Catholic in-charge of St. Joseph IDP camp in Maina, Waimaw township, said Catholics in the area had a strong faith in God and hoped their prayers would be answered.
"We haven't lost hope in peace. We keep praying for an end to the fighting," Gum Seng told ucanews.com.
In total the U.N. says that more than 7,400 people have recently been displaced by fighting in eight townships including Tanai, Ingyanyang and Hpakant. They have since been sheltering at both Catholic and Baptist churches.
Kachin Catholics during the Marian procession for peace in Myitkyina, Kachin State on May 28. (Photo by Hkun Awng Nlam)
Renewed fighting erupted in 2011 following the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire and since then, more than 120,000 people have fled to 179 IDP camps in Kachin State and neighboring Shan State.
Myanmar's military stepped up its offensive in Kachin State in early April by launching attacks against the rebels using heavy artillery, helicopters and jet fighters.
On May 8, Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina and two other Kachin bishops gave a letter focusing on the conflict to Pope Francis during their ad limina visit to the Vatican.
"In the letter, we requested Pope Francis help Myanmar's peace efforts and to appeal to the country's leaders — the civilian government and military leaders," Bishop Tang told ucanews.com. "We stressed the importance of negotiation and dialogue for attaining peace."
Pope Francis made a three day visit to Myanmar last November and urged the country's people to work towards peace and reconciliation.
Most of Kachin State's 1.7 million population are Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.