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06/17/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – There has been a rise in attacks against churches in the past several weeks. In several towns in Kayah and Shan states, located in eastern Myanmar, fighting between the Burmese military and local militias has led to eight Christian churches being damaged since May 20. Five civilians who were sheltering inside the churches were also killed.

From May 23 to June 6, the military used heavy weapons against the local forces. The Golden Temple of Jesus and Jeroblo Marian Shrine and Our Lady of Lourdes Cave in Pekon, Mother Mary’s Church in Moebye, St. Joseph’s Church in Demoso, the Catholic Church in Daw Ngan Khar Village, and St. Peter’s Church in Loikaw were all damaged in the various attacks.

According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a Catholic priest from Demoso in Kayah state responded to the attacks saying, “It’s just a building, but it hurts people in their hearts. Are they just targeting us? I would like to appeal to both sides not to carry out such attacks in future.”

 Many people seek shelter in churches when their villages are under attack, which makes the recent spike in attacks on churches even more disturbing. During the clashes in Moebye and Pekon, local people sought a safe haven in churches, but many civilians were injured as the military raided and attacked them, residents said.

Kayah state has one of the highest concentrations of Christians in the country. Mu Nang, a Catholic who lives in Kayah State, told RFA that she was devastated by the destruction of the churches. “We would rather have our house hit than the church,” she said.

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for the parallel National Unity Government (NUG), called for international attention to the attacks on churches. He said, “The attacks on religious buildings is a violation of international laws of war. The shooting of people who are hiding and taking refuge in there is another serious matter.”

Fighting in Kayah state since May 20 has forced more than 100,000 residents to flee their homes, and over 40,000 of them are taking shelter in 23 churches. On June 6, refugees from five churches along the Demoso-Daw Nang Kha-Moebye road were forced to flee when junta troops were deployed to the area.

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