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Military targets churches in conflict-torn Myanmar

A Baptist church is the latest to be attacked in predominantly Christian Chin state

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 21, 2021 04:58 AM GMT

Updated: October 21, 2021 05:08 AM GMT

Military targets churches in conflict-torn Myanmar

Houses burn in Namg Kar village in Magwe region's Gangaw township on Sept. 10 as fighting continued between the Myanmar military and local resistance groups opposed to the military coup. (Photo: Anonymous/AFP)

Churches and civilian homes continue to be the primary targets for Myanmar’s military junta even as fighting rages with local resistance groups in predominantly Christian Chin state.

A Baptist church and residential properties in New Thlanrawn village, Falam township, were vandalized by the military on Oct. 16, according to local media outlet Chindwin News.

The report quoting villagers said the military burned down 13 houses and the church was vandalized after it failed to burn due to rain.

The latest attack came three days after the burning down of an entire village including a Baptist church in Rialto village on Oct. 13.

The number of displaced people in Chin state has significantly increased to 21,420, with thousands more fleeing from the urban areas of Mindat and Kanpetlet townships in the first week of October, according to a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) report on Oct. 19.

At least 45 people were killed and 32 injured while seven churches and 192 civilian structures were destroyed in Chin state, neighboring Magwe and Sagaing regions, during August and September, said Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

The impoverished and mountainous Chin state has seen the strongest resistance to the military junta since the coup

More than 100 people were arrested in Chin state and its neighboring regions, while more than 612 ethnic Chin across the country have been arrested since the Feb. 1 military coup.

The rights group said in a report released on Oct. 15 that it had documented numerous violations of international law by the military including arbitrary detentions and killings, indiscriminate targeting of civilians, targeted destruction of religious buildings, forced displacement and restrictions on humanitarian access.

The impoverished and mountainous Chin state has seen the strongest resistance to the military junta since the coup with combined forces of newly formed local resistance groups and the Chin National Army (CNA) engaged in fighting.

In recent weeks, the military began sending fresh reinforcements to launch a major offensive against the resistance groups in the region. The UN human rights office has warned that the deployment of troops and heavy weapons by the military may lead to an imminent attack in these areas.

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Myanmar’s military has long been accused of committing atrocities, especially in ethnic regions, by resorting to rape, abductions, arbitrary arrests and killings besides vandalizing places of worship and civilian properties.

The UN has said 3 million women, children and men are in urgent need of life-saving assistance and protection in post-coup Myanmar due to conflict, food insecurity, natural disaster and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chin state in western Myanmar is one of the poorest states in the country due to neglect by the military regime for decades. Over 90 percent of Chins are Christians, with most identifying as Baptists.

Christians make up some 6 percent of Myanmar’s population of 54 million, while Buddhism is the state religion representing nearly 89 percent.

The country was ranked 18th in Open Doors USA’s 2021 World Watch list of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution.

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