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Myanmar bishop urges respect for human dignity, property

Archbishop Marco Tin Win’s appeal comes as junta escalates attacks on historic Catholic villages
This handout photo from the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3, 2022 and released on May 4 shows civilians hiding in a cave after airstrikes and mortar attack on their village by the Myanmar military

This handout photo from the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3, 2022 and released on May 4 shows civilians hiding in a cave after airstrikes and mortar attack on their village by the Myanmar military. (Photo: AFP/Free Burma Rangers) 

Published: July 19, 2022 06:00 AM GMT

Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay has called for human dignity and property to be respected as Myanmar’s military junta attacks on civilians in several villages.

“I am deeply disheartened to learn about the suffering of thousands of people, especially from villages including Catholics whose homes were burned, properties looted and who have become homeless, displaced and in dire need of food and shelter,” Archbishop Tin Win said in a video message on July 17.

“Their villages are becoming a land of ashes lacking homes, trees and birds. I am also deeply sorrowful over thousands of our brothers and sisters who can’t live in their own homes and instead live in makeshift camps who are facing acute hunger,” the prelate said.

“Food, clothing, shelter and healthcare are basic rights of all human beings so they need to be prioritized.”

The 60-year-old bishop appealed to concerned parties “not to burn and destroy civilian homes and respect their properties”.

His message, however, did not mention the military junta or the State Administration Council.

"According to the teachings of the Church, human existence and human dignity need to be respected"

The bishop’s appeal came as the military junta escalates its attacks on civilians with air strikes and artillery shelling in several villages including the historic Catholic Mon Hla village in Sagaing region.

The extent of the damage to civilian homes, a church and convent in the village remains unknown. Thousands of Catholic villagers are seeking shelter in nearby forests and other safe areas as they are fearful of returning to their homes

The military regime is specifically targeting three historic Catholic villages in the Buddhist Bamar heartland of Sagaing in a bid to stamp out growing resistance by people’s defense forces.

The junta has also stepped up its offensives in the Magwe and Chin regions with artillery shelling, air strikes and the burning of houses in several villages that have led to thousands of people becoming displaced.

Archbishop Tin Win raised concern over people who have been missing and killed in several regions across the country.

“According to the teachings of the Church, human existence and human dignity need to be respected,” he said.

The prelate noted that Catholic villagers in Mandalay Archdiocese affected by the ongoing conflict have been living side by side with Buddhists peacefully and harmoniously for decades.

“They have mutual understanding and respect despite their differences and there have never been religious conflicts in those villages,” he said.

The historic Catholic villages have produced many clerics such as Cardinal Charles Bo and Archbishop Tin Win. He is the only Catholic leader to openly lend moral support to the pro-democracy protesters by standing in front of the clergy’s house in Mandalay last February.

Nearly 100 soldiers stormed the Sacred Heart Cathedral compound in Mandalay and forcibly entered the cathedral, archbishops’ house, parish priest's residence and clergy center on April 8.

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