03/29/2022, 17.03
MYANMAR
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As civil war rages, ruling junta destroys about a hundred religious buildings

Affected sites include churches and Buddhist monasteries. The military has failed to prevail in Chin and Kayah states due to popular resistance. Civilian targets have recently been hit in Kayin, where at least 150,000 civilians have become internally displaced.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About a hundred religious buildings have been destroyed by Myanmar’s military in areas where anti-coup resistance is strong, especially in the north-west and south-east of the country.

Since December, the military have intensified attacks on the predominantly Christian Chin and Kayah states and in the predominantly Buddhist regions of Sagaing and Magwe.

Between February 2021 and January 2022, some 35 churches and 15 affiliated buildings have been destroyed in Chin state, this according to the Chin Human Rights Organisation. During the same period, at least 12 churches were razed to the ground in Kayah State, the Karenni Human Rights Group reported.

Despite a pledge by the generals after their coup in February 2021 to protect places of worship, pagodas and monasteries have not been spared. Since April 2021, when ethnic militias began fighting back, at least 50 religious buildings were either destroyed or looted.

Earlier this month, a monastery was shelled in Latpandaw, a village in Yinmabin district (Sagaing), killing at least six people who had found refuge in it.

In the same area in late February, soldiers raided the monastery in the village of Chin Phone and used 80 children as human shields for at least 36 hours.

“When the abbot of the monastery tried to negotiate with the regime forces, they pointed a gun at the monk and wouldn’t let him out of the monastery,” a villager said.

Now the building is being used as an interrogation centre where civilians are tortured and killed. Offering by locals, about 50 million kyat (US$ 28,100) were stolen.

According to the independent news website The Irrawaddy, the attacks on religious buildings reflect the junta's frustration at not being able to prevail over the anti-coup forces, especially in Chin and Kayah states, despite the use of air strikes and heavy artillery.

Recently, the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force, the main opposition organisation in Kayah State, removed several anti-personnel mines placed in rice fields by the army, to allow local farmers to return to their lands (pictured).

In recent weeks, Karen state (also called Kayin), on the border with Thailand, has been the scene of intense fighting. Over the weekend, planes bombed several provinces, hitting civilian targets, including health facilities.

The Karen National Liberation Army said it did not suffer losses, claiming instead to have killed at least 60 regular soldiers, but such claims are hard to verify.

At least 150,000 civilians have been displaced in this region.

Faced with this situation, the Fondazione PIME set a fund – Fondo S145 Emergenza Myanmar – to support initiatives by local churches, many of which were established by PIME missionaries before the expulsion of foreign missionaries in 1966.

The goal of the campaign is to provide immediate help to thousands of people through the relief network set up by the dioceses of Taungoo and Taunggyi.

Many local religious groups have responded to the emergency and in so doing are showing the most beautiful face of Myanmar, that of a people who, despite the suffering that has marked their history, choose the path of solidarity. 

Aid will be sent to them, starting with basic needs: shelter, food, and a school for children deprived of an education for the past two years because of the pandemic and the war.

Donations can be made out to S145–Emergenza Myanmar:

  • directly online at this link (in Italian) choosing S145–Emergenza Myanmar among the projects (progetti);
  • by bank transfer payable to Fondazione Pime Onlus IBAN: IT 11 W 05216 01630 000000005733 (it is recommended that a copy of the transfer be sent by email to uam@pimemilano.com indicating name, address, place and date of birth, plus fiscal code if in Italy or equivalent social insurance number in other countries)
  • to the postal current account n. 39208202 made out to Fondazione Pime Onlus via Monte Rosa, 81 20149 Milan
  • in cash or check by going in person to the Centro PIME in Milan, via Monte Rosa 81 – business hours Monday to Friday: from 9 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm)
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For Catholic activist, the plight of Kachin displaced by the military’s violence is getting worse
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