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Myanmar junta 'ignoring pleas not to target churches'

Two die as Baptist church and school in western Chin state damaged by bombing on July 2
This handout photo from the 'Kantarawaddy Times' released on May 24, 2021 shows a damaged church in Loikaw in Myanmar's eastern Kayah state after the military clashed with local rebel fighters

This handout photo from the 'Kantarawaddy Times' released on May 24, 2021 shows a damaged church in Loikaw in Myanmar's eastern Kayah state after the military clashed with local rebel fighters. (Photo: Kantarawaddy Times/AFP)

Published: July 05, 2022 08:08 AM GMT
Updated: July 05, 2022 09:18 AM GMT

Myanmar's military junta is still targeting churches and Christian institutions in predominantly Christian regions, ignoring repeated calls by religious leaders for it to protect places of worship.

A church and a school in a village in western Chin state were targeted in aerial bombing on July 2, according to local sources and reports.

Media reports said two civilians were killed and several others, including children, were wounded when jet fighters dropped bombs near the church and school in Chat village, Mindat township, southern Chin state.

Displaced people from nearby villages had taken refuge at the Baptist church and in the school compound, according to local sources.

“We strongly condemn the junta’s use of air strikes and targeting of ethnic Chin which constitute war crimes,” the Interim Chin National Consultative Council said.

Last September, soldiers occupied St. John’s Church in Chat village, Mindat township and reportedly took the consecrated host, opened a tabernacle and destroyed locked cabinets.

"Human dignity and the right to life can never be compromised"

Catholic and Baptist churches in Chin state, an impoverished and mainly Christian region, have been targeted by junta forces since the coup last February.

At least 10 church buildings, including a Catholic church in the deserted town of Thantlang, were destroyed due to arson attacks by the junta between September 2021 and June 2022, according to human rights groups.

Chin state has been at the forefront of resistance to military rule and has witnessed fierce attacks including air strikes, heavy artillery and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Thousands have been internally displaced while thousands more fled into neighboring India’s Mizoram state.

More than 18,000 civilian properties, including houses, churches, monasteries and schools are estimated to have been destroyed during hostilities across the country between the military and ethnic rebel groups, according to a recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Various religious leaders, including Catholic bishops in Myanmar and Pope Francis, have called for the protection of places of worship, hospitals and schools and respect for human life in the Southeast Asian nation.

“Human dignity and the right to life can never be compromised. We strongly demand respect for life, respect for the sanctity of sanctuary in places of worship, hospitals and schools again,” the bishops said on June 11.

The junta has ignored repeated calls by regional and international groups to end the violence. The reign of terror has targeted ethnic areas with a majority of Christians or Bamar Buddhists.

Nearly 2,100 people have lost their lives in the brutal crackdown by the military and over 14,000 have been detained since the coup in February last yea.r

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