PAUKKAUNG TOWNSHIP, Pegu Division — A convent at a village here was damaged on Sunday by angry local residents following the killing of a 4-year-old girl that is being pinned on a teenager who was living at the Christian establishment.
The 4-year-old victim was allegedly killed by a 14-year-old boy at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Convent in Nyaungwun village.
The parents of the girl regularly sent their daughter to the convent to be watched after. The girl went missing on Sept. 24 and her body was found three days later in a bush near the building.
Angry family members of the victim and other local residents ransacked the property, according to local Ngwe Myo, after it was learned that police had detained a 14-year-old boy who was living at the convent and charged him with murder.
“Since [the victim] was a baby, her father and mother used to leave her at the convent when they went to work in the morning and would pick her up in the evening,” said Ngwe Myo, who added that the teenager charged with her murder was an orphan who had only recently been taken in by the convent.
Damage to the property was extensive and nuns and vicars fled after police failed to provide adequate security, according to a priest belonging to the convent.
“As the situation deteriorated, we asked the police if they could provide security. They said they could not guarantee [our safety] and we fled the same night in two cars,” recounted Father Benjamin Htwe Naing.
“We won’t sue them. We understand and forgive them, but what happened that night was like the end of the world. I am afraid the nuns dare not go back to the convent,” he added.
The accused teenager is being detained at the house of a police officer with the approval of a local magistrate, Prome District Deputy Police Col. Aung Thet Naing told The Irrawaddy.
“This was not a case of religious strife,” Aung Thet Naing said. “The major reason for this incident was because of the mind of a teenager who is without parents. There is no precedent for such a case. They just exploded with rage at the murder of a local child.”
There are more than 280 households in Nyaungwun village, only two of which are Christian. The Catholic convent has existed for more than three decades and 13 ethnic Karen children are receiving primary education there.
Prome Catholic Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho said Paukkaung authorities and spiritual leaders of different faiths have held talks in recent days aimed at ensuring communal harmony.