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05/23/2022 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Religious buildings, including churches, have continued to be primary targets for the military junta in conflict-torn Myanmar, where Christians represent a minority.  

The latest incident happened last week when junta soldiers destroyed a statue of Mary. According to church sources, troops encamped in a Catholic chapel and caused havoc in Tadaku village in southern Shan state, which is in the Pekhon diocese.  

Soldiers regularly raid church institutions, including places of worship, under the pretext of looking for suspected rebels or hidden weapons and often resort to violence.  

At least six parishes have been abandoned, while churches, including Sacred Heart Cathedral, have been attacked three times and damaged in the Pekhon diocese due to the ongoing conflict.   

More than 5,000 people from the Pekhon diocese have been forced to flee from their homes since last year and remain in church premises in the nearby diocese of Taunggyi.  

A church social worker said the situation in the Pekhon diocese remains tense as fighting is still raging in the region and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are unable to return to their homes.  

“Amid ongoing fighting and restrictions imposed by the junta, we struggle to provide humanitarian assistance to the IDPs,” the social worker told UCA News.  

He said at least 5,000 people from the Pekhon diocese had been forced to flee from their homes since last year and remain in the church premises in the diocese of Taunggyi.  

More than 140,000 civilians, including Catholics from Loikaw and Pekhon dioceses in Kayah and southern Shan state, have been forced to seek refuge in churches, makeshift camps, and in the jungle while the military has been targeting priests and pastors, bombing and vandalizing churches in predominantly Christian Kayah, Chin and Kachin states.  

Despite many religious leaders, including Pope Francis, calling for the protection of places of worship and an end to the violence, the junta has shown no signs of easing the oppression of civilians.  

More than 1,800 people have lost their lives in the military’s brutal crackdown, and over 13,000 people have been detained since the military seized control in a coup in February of 2021.  

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