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Myanmar

Myanmar junta targets Catholic institutions in Kayah state

Soldiers forced patients to leave and arrested 18 healthcare workers from a clinic in Loikaw

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: November 23, 2021 08:21 AM GMT

Updated: November 23, 2021 03:40 PM GMT

Myanmar junta targets Catholic institutions in Kayah state

The Karuna dispensary situated inside Christ the King Cathedral compound in Loikaw, the capital city of Kayah state, was raided by Myanmar junta forces on Nov. 22. (Photo supplied)

The Myanmar military raided the bishop’s house and a church-run clinic in the Catholic stronghold of Kayah state and arrested 18 healthcare workers.

More than 200 soldiers and police officers stormed Christ the King Cathedral compound in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah state, and forcibly entered the clinic known as Karuna (compassion), bishop’s house and church building on Nov. 22, according to church officials.

They forced some 40 patients, including four infected by the Covid-19 virus, to move out, arrested 18 healthcare workers including four doctors, nurses, pharmacists and volunteers, besides taking away records of medical equipment. A priest and two nuns accompanied those arrested to the interrogation center.

“One group after another checked and searched the buildings including the bishop’s house at least three times,” a church official said. More soldiers were deployed and roads leading to the cathedral compound were blocked during the raid.

Church officials said the security forces checked all the buildings inside the church compound from around 9am to 4pm and also broke into the room of the social communications officer.

“We are carrying out charitable works and weren’t involved in any wrongdoing. We have no idea why they raided us and what they searched for,” Father Francis Soe Naing, chancellor of Loikaw Diocese, told UCA News.

The rising conflict, particularly in predominantly Christian regions inhabited by the Kayah, Chin and Kachin, has resulted in churches being shelled and raided

He said the raids caused fear and insecurity among patients and some internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had taken refuge in the cathedral compound after fleeing their homes when fighting intensified in May.

It’s not uncommon for the military to kill civilians, burn homes and make arbitrary arrests in the predominantly Christian region, church sources said.

At least 10 parishes in Loikaw Diocese have been severely affected by the recent conflict, displacing more than 100,000 people including Catholics.

The Church is responding to the needs of around 70,000 IDPs and providing humanitarian assistance in the form of health services, food and blankets, a priest said.

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At least five Catholic churches have been damaged by artillery shelling in the diocese, while a church and Marian shrine were damaged in Pekhon Diocese in the past five months.

The rising conflict, particularly in predominantly Christian regions inhabited by the Kayah, Chin and Kachin, has resulted in churches being shelled and raided. Priests and pastors have been arrested while many unarmed civilians, including Christians, have been killed.

Kayah state, a remote and mountainous region, is regarded as a stronghold of Catholicism in the Buddhist-majority country. About 90,000 Catholics live in the state with a population of 355,000.

The latest military assault on Christians in ethnic regions is not the first time minority Christians have been attacked and targeted. Christians have borne the brunt of the decades-old civil war and faced oppression and persecution at the hands of the military, which ruled for more than five decades.

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