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Myanmar junta desecrates another Catholic church

Troops lay mines around a church building amid escalating conflict in Christian areas
Mother of God Church in Mobye town, southern Shan state was desecrated by junta troops who also laid mines nearby

Mother of God Church in Mobye town, southern Shan state was desecrated by junta troops who also laid mines nearby. (Photo supplied)

Published: September 14, 2022 09:33 AM GMT

A Catholic church has been desecrated by junta soldiers who used it as a kitchen and laid mines around the building, according to Church sources.

Myanmar's military has continued to target churches and Christian institutions in the conflict-stricken country where the religious minority bears the brunt of the conflict triggered by the February 2021 coup.

The junta’s act came after occupying the Mother of God Church in Mobye town, southern Shan state for several days before retreating from the church this week following casualties in fierce fighting with local defense forces.

Mobye, where the majority of people are Catholic, belongs to Pekhon diocese.

Dirty floors and pews covered with dust along with cooking pots and military uniforms were seen inside the church according to a video posted by local defense forces which went viral on social media.

Parishioners were urged not to go near the church building as the army had laid mines near it.

Fierce fighting erupted between the military and local defense forces around Mobye township last week when the military used air strikes and heavy weapons after dozens of soldiers were killed.

Reports said more than 5,000 people fled their homes due to the fighting in which over 100 homes were destroyed by the junta’s air strikes.

Local sources said the army occupied the church to prevent attacks by local defense forces.

“Damage to the church which is a holy place of God is a result of being attacked by the devil,” an exiled Myanmar priest said on Facebook.

“It’s so sad to see and it’s like destroying our hearts,” a Catholic laywoman said.

Pekhon diocese is one of the worst affected areas along with the nearby Loikaw diocese in neighboring Kayah state amid the escalating conflict.

At least six parishes in the Pekhon diocese have been abandoned while churches including Sacred Heart Cathedral have been repeatedly attacked and damaged due to the ongoing conflict, according to Church sources.

More than 150,000 civilians including Catholics in Kayah and southern Shan state have been forced to seek refuge in churches, makeshift camps and in the jungle while the military has been targeting priests and pastors, bombing and vandalizing churches in predominantly Christian Kayah, Chin and Kachin states.

At a UN Human Rights Council session on Sept. 12, Nicholas Koumjian, head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myamar, said: “Since the military coup in February last year, there is increasing evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer, persecution, imprisonment and the targeting of the civilian population.

“Facebook, another source of information, has shared with the mechanism millions of items from networks of accounts that were taken down by the company because they misrepresented their identity,” he said.

“Perpetrators of the most serious international crimes committed in Myanmar must know that we are united in our efforts to break the cycle of impunity and to ensure that those responsible for such crimes will face justice.”

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