Myanmar Catholic Bishops Urge Warring Parties to Spare Places of Worship

By The Irrawaddy 26 May 2021

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) has made an urgent appeal to relevant parties not to target places of worship or people sheltering in them following the regime’s recent deadly attack on a church in Kayah State.

The junta’s artillery and small arms attack on the Sacred Heart Church in Kayanthayar in the Kayah State capital Loikaw in southeastern Myanmar on Sunday killed four people and wounded eight. They were among civilians taking shelter at the church from fighting between the regime’s troops and local resistance groups. The building was seriously damaged.

Following the midnight attack, many people fled to the jungle. Cardinal Charles Bo, the archbishop of Yangon, called the situation “a great humanitarian tragedy” as “there are many children and old people among them, forced to starve and without any medical aid.”

“This needs to stop. We plead with you all, related organizations, kindly do not escalate the war,” he said in an appeal issued on Monday.

He reminded all parties that places of worship, hospitals and schools are protected during conflict through the Hague Conventions.

The bishops said they made this urgent appeal as a group of faith leaders‚ not as politicians, adding that those who died and those who were wounded are citizens of Myanmar.

“They were not armed; they were inside the church to protect their families. Every heart in this country weeps for the death of the innocent people,” they said.

Fighting between regime troops and local resistance fighters in Kayah State has been going on since last week. Both sides have sustained casualties and many civilians have been forced to flee their homes. The CBCM estimated that more than 20,000 have been displaced by the recent conflict in Loikaw.

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