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One dead, church damaged in Myanmar junta attack

The latest attack comes as the military has stepped up offensives in predominantly Christian regions
This photo taken on Aug. 5, 2022, shows anti-coup fighters standing next to burned debris they say was the result of an attack by the Myanmar military in a township in Myanmar's northwestern Sagaing region
This photo taken on Aug. 5, 2022, shows anti-coup fighters standing next to burned debris they say was the result of an attack by the Myanmar military in a township in Myanmar's northwestern Sagaing region. (Photo: AFP)
Published: April 04, 2023 06:48 AM GMT
Updated: April 04, 2023 06:54 AM GMT

One person died and five others were wounded in an attack that also hit a village church in a southern state where fighting between Myanmar's military and armed rebels has increased.

A 50-year-old man was killed and a youth and four elderly persons were wounded in a village in Pekhon township in Shan State due to indiscriminate artillery shelling by the military on April 2, according to Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, a rebel group.

The group said several houses were also damaged.

“A church building was hit in the shelling in a predominantly Catholic village,” a villager said.

The church belongs to the Pekhon Catholic diocese that covers southern Shan State and parts of Kayah State.

Pekhon diocese is one of the most affected by the ongoing fighting along with the Loikaw diocese in neighboring Kayah State.

At least six parishes in Pekhon diocese have been abandoned, while churches, including Sacred Heart Cathedral, have been repeatedly attacked.

The latest attack was part of the military stepping up its offensives in predominantly Christian regions in Kayah, Chin, and Karen states and the Bamar heartland of Sagaing and the Magwe region in central Myanmar.

The military offensive aims to crush the armed civil resistance against the junta government, which deposed the democratic government on Feb. 1, 2021, and vested power in a military junta.

Nine people, including two children, were killed and at least 10 people were wounded as the military reportedly bombed a village in Chin State on March 30.

A local pastor was among the injured and his two children were killed, while many houses were damaged.

“Depriving children of their parents and robbing them of their future is a crime against humanity. Targeting civilians with air strikes is a war crime,” Chin Human Rights Organization said on Twitter on April 2.

Pope Francis and Myanmar’s bishops have repeatedly called for peace and demanded an end to attacks on places of worship, schools, and hospitals.

Tens of thousands of civilians continue to bear the brunt of the civil war in the Southeast Asian nation, triggered by the military coup on Feb.1, 2021, after toppling the elected civilian government.

Myanmar has an estimated 53.5 million people and 87.9 percent of them are Buddhists. 

Of the 6.2 percent Christians, Catholics are 1.24 percent, organized into 16 dioceses, including three archdioceses. 

Four dioceses -- Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, and Kalay -- and Mandalay archdiocese in central Myanmar have been severely affected by the ongoing conflict.

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