Churches in west of Myanmar face attacks by military junta forces

(Photo: REUTERS / Soe Zeya Tun)Catholics listen to a speech as they mark the 500th Jubilee Year of the Presence of Catholic Church in Myanmar in St. Mary church in Yangon, November 21, 2014.

The security forces of the Myanmar junta forces have occupied churches and destroyed food aid supplies for refugees in the west of the country during clashes with ethnic armed forces and militias that oppose the Feb. 1 putsch.

Taking on the junta forces are many of the hundreds of militia groups formed by citizens to oppose the junta, some of which receive training and support from armed ethnic groups fighting with Myanmar's military for decades. Radio Free Asia reported.

The tension has spilled over into the Christian community in Chin state.

More churches are being targeted, and desecrated reports from Myanmar show, especially in Christian-majority states, such as Chin, as the fight between the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) and ethnic militia groups continues.

International Christian Concern has revealed the desecration of a Baptist church in Chin state's Falam township.

It said that a Catholic church in the same state occupied by the Tatmadaw was also desecrated during the soldiers' uninvited stay.


Myanmar's military seized power on Feb. 1 after toppling Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government and putting several political leaders behind bars.

ICC cited news reports by UCA News of the occupation of St. John Catholic Church in the village of Chat, Mindat township.

Security forces soldiers reportedly took away the consecrated host, opened a tabernacle, and destroyed the locked cabinets.

In addition, clothes and other items were scattered on the floor while the open tabernacle and destroyed locked cabinets could be seen in photos shared by residents.

Another Baptist church in Chat also had their Bibles and the generator destroyed.

The Tatmadaw is particularly hostile towards Christians in Myanmar because of their religion and because many of them belong to the country's ethnic minority groups seeking autonomy, said ICC.

"Knowing how their Christian faith is sacred to them, the soldiers venomously target their place of worship, grieving many Christians and their leaders," said ICC.

On Sept. 15, a Baptist church in Myanmar's western Chin state, a predominantly Christian area, was attacked by the military during intensified fighting in the region, UCA reported.

According to Christian sources and local media reports, the Johnson Memorial Baptist Church in Thantlang was hit by artillery fire on Sept. 14 night.

There were no reported casualties despite the breaking of church windows and the roof being damaged.

The attack came after a military airstrike and artillery attack on Lungler village, Thantlang township, following the overrunning of a military outpost by a team made up of the Chin National Army and local resistance group Chinland Defense Force last week that killed at least 12 soldiers.

More than 1,800 people from various villages in Thantlang township have fled across the border to Mizoram in northeast India, while some people sought refuge at nearby villages in the period between Sept. 10 and Sept. 14, according to aid groups, UCA said.

"They were drinking and behaving in the local church in Chat Village of Mindat Township as if it was a tavern. There is much destruction in the church," Chin Baptist Convention general secretary Law Ha Ling said according to RFA.

"This shouldn't have happened. I think they should be even more careful, especially in a country like ours, which is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country that we have built together," he said.

"Whoever rules the country should not let this kind of thing happen... by insulting a religion; it could be seen as an insult to the ethnic nationalities who believe in that religion."

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