It is with immense sorrow and pain, we record our anguish at the attack on innocent civilians, who sought refuge in Sacred Heart Church, Kayanthayar, Loikaw on 23rd May 2021 night.
The violent acts, including continuous shelling, using heavy weaponry on a frightened group of largely women and children, resulted in tragic death of four people and wounding more than eight. The church suffered extensive damage, bearing witness to the intensity of the attack on a place of worship.
The midnight attack made the hapless people to flee to the jungle. Their fate is still not known to the outside world. Food, medicine and hygiene are urgent needs but there is no way of reaching them. There are many children and old people among them, forced to starve and without any medical aid. This is a great humanitarian tragedy.
We bring to the notice of all, that the places of worship as a cultural property of a community, is covered by International Protocols. Churches, hospitals and schools are protected during conflict through the Hague Conventions.
Apart from all Protocols, let us remember the blood that is spilled is not some enemy’s blood; those who died and those who were wounded are the citizens of this country. They were not armed; they were inside the church to protect their families.
Every heart in this country weeps for the death of the innocent people. Now, hundreds die; thousands become refugees and displaced. More than 20,000 have been displaced in the recent conflict in Loikaw.
This needs to stop. We plead with you all, related organizations, kindly do not escalate the war. Our people are poor, COVID-19 robbed them of their livelihood, starvation stalks millions, the threat of another round of COVID-19 is real. Conflict is a cruel anomaly at this moment. Peace is possible; peace is the only way.
We make this urgent appeal as a group of faith leaders – not as politicians. We are praying for Peace in this great land and hoping all of us can live as brothers and sisters in this great nation.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, SDB
Archbishop, Catholic Archdiocese of Yangon President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM)
President, Federation of Asia Bishops’ Conferences (FABC)
Patron, Religions for Peace, Myanmar (RfP)
Co-President, Religions for Peace, International (RfP)