Catholic church hit as Myanmar army steps up attacks

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Myanmar’s military junta continued to target churches and civilians in predominantly Christian areas where thousands of people have been displaced.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Doukhu Parish of Loikaw Township in Kayah State was hit by military airstrikes on January 12, according to church sources.

One of the two church towers was destroyed but no civilian casualties were reported.

A local priest called the attack abominable and sacrilege. “More tragically, those who suffer because of the brutal persecution are God’s people,” he wrote on Facebook.

The latest attack came as the junta continued its aerial bombardment and artillery fire in Loikaw, capital of Kayah State, amid intense fighting with local militias and armed groups.

The UN said half of Loikaw’s population has been uprooted by the recent conflict and around 90,000 people from Kayah state have been displaced. Local aid groups have estimated that at least 170,000 people in Kayah state have fled their homes.

We will stay until the situation gets worse although almost everyone in town has already left

Six parishes in Loikaw Township were abandoned as all people fled their homes.

Father Francis Soe Naing, Chancellor of Loikaw Diocese, said clergy, nuns and parishioners have had to leave as some parishes near Loikaw have become a war zone.

“We will stay until the situation gets worse although almost everyone in the town has already left,” he said.

At least 15 parishes in the Diocese of Loikaw which covers Kayah State have been badly affected by the escalating fighting, while at least seven Catholic churches in the diocese have been hit by artillery fire and airstrikes.

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More than 650 homes and other civilian properties, including churches, monasteries and schools, have been burned or destroyed in Kayah State since May 2021, according to reports cited by the UN.

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

Thailand’s border region has been relatively peaceful for decades but has seen intense fighting since May 2021.

The junta is now fighting ethnic armed groups and local militias on several fronts, including in Kayah State, where they have continued to attack civilians with shelling and airstrikes.

Myanmar has witnessed intense fighting between the military junta and rebel forces in recent months in ethnic areas

On Christmas Eve, more than 35 civilians, including two children, were killed and their bodies set on fire in Mo So village, Hpruso township, by soldiers.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF has expressed grave concern over the escalation of the conflict and denounced the killing of at least four children. Several others have been mutilated over the past week.

He said a 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy from Loikaw were hit by heavy weapons following intense airstrikes and mortar attacks.

Myanmar has been the scene of intense fighting between the military junta and rebel forces in recent months in ethnic areas, including predominantly Christian Kayah, Chin and Karen states, where civilians have been forced from their houses and to flee to the forests or to take refuge in ecclesiastical institutions. .

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