06/17/2022, 10.47
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Karen State, Burmese army burns Catholic church

Before retreating, soldiers looted the compound, set fire to it and mined the area of Dawnyaykhu where fighting with local militias is ongoing. As many as 20 religious buildings in this region have been attacked or destroyed by the military in little more than a year. In recent days, a Baptist Church in Chin State was also set on fire.



Loikaw (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church of St Matthew in the village of Dawnyaykhu - Phruso municipality - was burned down by the Burmese army, the latest in a string of attacks on a religious buildings in Karen State. The eastern region of Myanmar is teh scene of ongoing conflict pitting the military against local militias .

The episode occurred on 15 June in an area where heated fighting has been going on for days between the army and the Karenni National Defence Force (Kndf) for control of the road that connects Demoso with Phruso and Bawlakha. St Matthew's Church is one of 38 parishes in the Loikaw diocese.

The day before, the soldiers of the 66th division had already set fire to four houses in the village; then - when they found themselves having to leave Dawnyaykhu, to fall back to Phruso under pressure from the Kndf forces - they ransacked the church complex, taking away food destined for the poor and set fire to the building. A video released by the Kndf shows St Matthew's Church still in flames. Before abandoning the village, the army also allegedly mined the area.

Just a few days ago, the Burmese army had set fire to another village, Chanthaywa, located in the Sagain region in the centre of the country. In that case, too, the local nuns had been forced to flee and take refuge in a camp for displaced persons.

Direct attacks on religious communities are becoming a constant in Karen, Chin and Sagain States, where the battle rages against the local armed resistance, which refuses the generals' ultimatum to lay down their arms and return to civilian life. A little over a year after the coup of 1 February 2021, there are as many as 20 religious buildings destroyed by the army in Karen State alone. At least nine parishes were affected by attacks or bombings in the diocese of Loikaw.

Moreover, in Chin State, the oldest Baptist Church in Thantlang was set on fire on 9 June, bringing to 60 the number of religious buildings affected in this western region of Myanmar. 

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