Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Demoso township was damaged by military shelling on June 6. (Photo: CJ)
Another church in Kayah state — a Catholic stronghold in eastern Myanmar — has been damaged by indiscriminate shelling by the military.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Doungankha village of Demoso township was hit by artillery fire on June 6 morning but there were no casualties, according to church officials.
They said there were no people in the church as parishioners had already fled to relatives' homes and the jungle while some priests and elderly nuns remained.
The church’s walls were badly damaged by the shelling and the windows were broken.
It was the third church in Kayah state to be attacked by the military within two weeks. Sacred Heart Church in Kantharyar village near Loikaw was hit by artillery shelling that killed four Catholics and wounded at least eight others on May 23 night. St. Joseph Church in Demoso town, one of the key areas of fighting, was hit by military artillery on May 26 night.
The latest attack came despite a plea by Cardinal Charles Bo for the protection of religious buildings as places of worship and the cultural property of a community covered by international protocols.
More than 100,000 civilians were forced to flee their homes in Kayah and neighboring Shan state
He has also urged the concerned parties to end fighting in the conflict-torn nation.
Artillery shelling by the military reportedly damaged Jeroblou Marian shrine in Pekhon town near Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, on June 6 night.
On June 6, the military stepped up artillery assaults in Doungankha to crush the Karenni People’s Defense Force (KPDF) and their indiscriminate shelling hit houses while a school was also burned, according to local media reports.
Hundreds of soldiers have also been deployed in Our Lady of Lourdes Church compound in Doumyalay Parish, Kayah state, since June 4, according to local sources.
More than 100,000 civilians were forced to flee their homes in Kayah and neighboring Shan state and seek refuge in churches and convents while others fled into the jungle as fighting has been raging between the military and the KPDF since May 21.
Several priests and nuns from at least seven parishes joined thousands of Catholics who had already fled to safe areas.
The Church’s social arm Karuna (Caritas) Loikaw has played a major role in providing humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in collaboration with the diocese’s emergency response committee.
Father Aloysius Thet Htwe Aung, director of Karuna (Caritas) Loikaw, said the humanitarian situation is deteriorating with challenges to providing humanitarian response to IDPs and high commodity prices. He said the fighting has spread into other areas, so more people are ready to flee their homes.
Kayah state is regarded as a stronghold of Catholicism in the Buddhist-majority country
“We are trying hard to respond to the needs of people including those in far-flung areas,” he told UCA News.
Kayah state is regarded as a stronghold of Catholicism in the Buddhist-majority country. About 90,000 Catholics live in a state with a population of 355,000.
More than 175,000 people have been displaced in Kachin, Karen, Chin, Kayah and Shan states since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the UNHCR.
Fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups and local resistance groups has been escalating in Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin states following the brutal crackdown against anti-coup protesters by the military that has led to at least 847 deaths.