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Myanmar

Myanmar's Christian region sees rising number of refugees

Civilians in Chin state bear the brunt as fighting rages between the military and local militias

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: September 22, 2021 07:39 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2021 07:48 AM GMT

Myanmar's Christian region sees rising number of refugees

Homes burn in Chin state's Thantlang township after the Myanmar military's heavy artillery fire on Sept. 18. (Photo: AFP)

Predominantly Christian Chin state in western Myanmar has seen an increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees as fighting intensifies between the military and local militia groups.

The entire population of at least 8,000 people in Thantlang town in Chin state have fled their homes following the military assault that destroyed at least 19 houses on Sept. 18 following fighting with local resistance groups.

At least 30 soldiers were reportedly killed during clashes with the combined forces of resistance groups and the Chin National Army.

A Catholic social worker said almost all people, mostly ethnic Chin Christians, from the town were forced to flee their homes to nearby villages while some fled across the border into India’s Mizoram state.

“Only a few families remain in the town as most people have abandoned their homes for fear of further attacks on civilians,” the social worker told UCA News.

A Catholic priest and nuns have also fled the town to a nearby parish.

At least 20,000 people have already been displaced in several townships in Chin state since fighting erupted in May

At least four houses were also partially destroyed in Hakha, capital of Chin state, over the weekend and gunfire has also been heard in the town at night.

At least 20,000 people have already been displaced in several townships in Chin state since fighting erupted in May.

Mizoram, which shares a long border with Myanmar, has also seen an increasing number of refugees — nearly 20,000 — following the military coup on Feb. 1.

Civilians from impoverished Chin state have borne the brunt of fighting where people had not seen conflict for decades.

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A 31-year-old Chin pastor was shot dead while he tried to help put out a fire in a house hit by shelling during an attack on civilians on Sept. 18.

The Baptist World Alliance, representing 49 million Baptists in 126 countries and territories, has called for justice and accountability for the perpetrators.

“Baptist pastor Rev. Cung Biak Hum attempted to help as one of the houses belonging to a member of his church was burning. Instead, upon his arrival at the scene, he was shot and killed by military soldiers, making him the first Baptist to be killed due to the ongoing conflict. The military soldiers also stole his cellphone, watch and cut off his finger in order to steal his wedding ring,” the group said in a statement.

Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) has strongly condemned the inhumane murder of the pastor, the torching of churches, buildings and houses and the barbaric acts of threatening the security and life of pastors, members of churches and civilians in Chin state.

During the recent conflict, Catholic and Baptist churches in Chin state have been targeted by the military

“Since Feb. 1, the citizens of Myanmar face immense worries and feelings of hopelessness for the future. Hence, KBC’s stand is that the will and voices of the citizens must be implemented by standing on the side of the truth,” it said.

During the recent conflict, Catholic and Baptist churches in Chin state have been targeted by the military, with soldiers camping in the churches and destroying church property.

Myanmar has been in political turmoil following the military seizure of power that sparked street protests, a civil disobedience movement and young people taking up arms to end military rule.

At least 1,100 people have been killed and more than 7,000 people detained as the military’s reign of terror continues unabated despite calls by world leaders including Pope Francis to end violence and pursue dialogue.

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