Loikaw (Agenzia Fides) - The Burmese army (Tatamadaw) soldiers attacked the village of Kayan Tharyar, 7 km from Loikaw, capital of Kayah State, with artillery shells last night, with the aim of hitting suspected rebel groups. One of the mortar shells hit the church, killing at least two women and wounding many other displaced people who had sought refuge there. This is what the Jesuits in Myanmar report to Agenzia Fides. The villagers of Kayan Tharyar, in fact, believed that the parish church would be a "place where they could safely take refuge for those fleeing accidents and shootings in the area, but tragically this was not the case", write the Jesuits.
The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Pekhon (about fifteen kilometers from Loikaw) was also damaged by artillery shells. The Jesuits condemn these "heinous crimes in the strongest possible way" and demand that "the Burmese military be held accountable for what happened. "The military - the religious write - must immediately stop the attacks against civilians and churches". The bombs have destroyed the buildings, reducing them to rubble, with images that recall a clear scene of war.
The State of Kayah, where 75% of the inhabitants belong to ethnic minorities, is the Burmese state with the highest percentage of Christians. The Catholic presence in this region began in the late 1800s with the arrival of the first missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). Today there are over 90,000 Kayah Catholics, almost a third of the 355,000 inhabitants of the State. The level of confrontation is increasing in Myanmar, where, as of May 23, at least 818 people have died since the February 1 military coup, which was followed by widespread popular protest. On April 24, several victims were registered in the city of Mindat, besieged since the military refused to release seven protesters. The locals reacted as best they could, even shooting or using incendiary bottles, and the military claimed deaths and injuries. On May 17, government media claimed that 107mm rockets were used to attack Taungoo Air Base and its military unit in Bago (north of Yangon) - the news shows how the level of confrontation is increasing, which analysts fear it could degenerate into a general civil war. Father Maurice Moe Haung, Burmese priest of the Missionaries of Charity, resident in Italy, comments to Agenzia Fides: "Today the task of the Catholic faithful in Myanmar is increasingly difficult. There are defenseless innocents who live an unprecedented tragedy and people try to defend themselves with homemade weapons. There is a disproportionate use of armed force that feeds the spiral of violence. Today we join the Pope in saying once again: stop violence". The rebellion against the junta continues to ignite the center and the periphery: the protests continue to hit the cities, 30 of which are under curfew from 8 pm to 4 in the morning, while in Yangon and Mandalay, epicenters of the rebellion, the curfew begins two hours before. Even rural areas are not exempt from military violence, detentions and raids. Meanwhile, the junta has declared that it will dissolve the National League for Democracy (NLD) for electoral fraud and take action against the traitors who rigged the November elections, during which Aung San Suu Kyi's party came out as a winner like never before. For its part, the clandestine government that was formed abroad seems instead willing to give "citizenship" also to the Rohingya ethnic minority: after the request from the USA, the new executive plans to provide identity cards to the minority expelled from Myanmar and apparently has given Maung Zarni - a well-known activist of the Rohingya cause - a role in the ministry of international cooperation. (PA-MG) (Agenzia Fides, 24/5/2021)