ASIA / MYANMAR – Army occupies Baptist church: new episodes of attacks against Christians
Hakha (Agenzia Fides) – The army in Myanmar devastated a Baptist church after attacking the village of Tlang Rua in the diocese of Hakha, in the Burmese state of Chin, in north-western Myanmar, and camped in the interior of the church. As Fides learned, they also set fire to 12 houses during the attack on the village, which took place on October 19. When the inhabitants learned of the arrival of the army in the area, more than 1,200 inhabitants of the area fled to the forest where they are. now hidden, enduring heavy rains and cold.
Baptist pastor Rev. Thawng condemns “the indiscriminate violence of these acts against civilians, justified by the raids on the rebels” and, noting that such acts against churches are repeated frequently, asserts that “the Myanmar military have become thieves and terrorists” . “No one was killed, but it is an act to be strongly condemned, it is cowardly, fanatic and anti-religious behavior by the military,” said Catholic priest Fr. Francis Suan, a resident living nearby.
The violence occurred days after an entire village burned down, including a Baptist church in Rialto village, also in Chin, on October 13. The recent episodes which see Christian pastors, villages, places of worship as victims raise questions. in the Myanmar community of believers. Bro. Noel Hran Tin Thang, Burmese priest, notes to Fides: âIn the general atmosphere of violence, we see attacks against Christian churches, but no destruction of Buddhist pagodas. Why ? Members of the resistance forces are Burmese of all religions and ethnicities. Why the fury against Christians? âWorshipers recall that last month, Burmese soldiers killed 31-year-old Baptist pastor Cung Biak Hum as he rushed to help put out a fire caused by military bombing. in Chin State (cf. Fides, 09/22/2021). His body was also brutalized. There are 20 episodes documented by human rights groups, by the media, by staff Church, in which Christian churches, church leaders and volunteers are hit or involved in crossfire: buildings of worship hit by rockets, parish priests and worshipers arrested, use churches as military bases. The army often justifies attacks on churches by claiming that rebels are hiding in buildings.
The faithful Catholics and other faiths fear and fear targeted reprisals against Christian communities and for this reason they are afraid to go to churches for their liturgies. As clashes continue between the regular army and the People’s Defense Forces, it is often priests like Father Celso Ba Shwe, apostolic administrator of Loikaw, Kayah State, who reach the people, bring them comfort and hope, by going to the different districts to bring the sacraments. âIn the footsteps of a Good Shepherd, we go out to give spiritual nourishment, consolation, solidarity, in the name of Christ,â Father Celso told Agenzia Fides. “Since the beginning of the political and social crisis, the churches have sheltered people fleeing the conflict, according to a reception and humanitarian aid work”, explain to Fides local priests and religious, health care is also provided. dispensed in many churches, hospitals, clinics, Christian structures such as the famous âClinic of Compassionâ in Loikaw.
It is to be noted that the Christians of Myanmar (about 6% of the population, 90% Buddhists) come mainly from the areas of ethnic minorities and for this reason they suffer from a former hostility on the part of the army, both for their ethnicity than for their religion. The Bamar ethnic majority, predominantly Buddhist, in fact, prevails in politics and the military, and in the past the cultural and social promotion of religious nationalism (Bamar-Buddhist branded) has marginalized minorities.
According to the last census of 2016, Christians in Myanmar are mainly concentrated in the states of Chin, Kayah and Kachin. In Chin State (in the west, on the border with India) about 85% of the 478,000 inhabitants are Christians; in Kayah (on the border with Thailand in the south-east) 46% of the 286,000 inhabitants declare themselves to be Christians; in the state of Kachin, in the far north of Myanmar, on the border with China, 34% of the 1.6 million inhabitants are Christians.
Military violence against Christian minorities is part of a broader crackdown on the nationwide resistance movement that is testing the population. United Nations says 3 million women, children and men are in urgent need of assistance and protection in post-coup Myanmar due to conflict, food insecurity, disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic. (PA-JZ) (Agenzia Fides, 10/22/2021)