Myanmar junta forces ransack parish church, clergy house

The villagers said the parish priest and nuns were able to escape the attack with several parishioners

A parish church and a convent in the Archdiocese of Mandalay in Myanmar were ransacked by junta military forces on January 20, said residents.

“The military soldiers raided the village of Chan Thar, which is a parish center in the Archdiocese of Mandalay, at 1 p.m. and damaged the church and the clergy house,” said a priest who asked not to be named for security reasons.

Villagers also told that the soldiers, who later broke the glass door of the convent, were deployed around the church the night before.

Aside from the parish convent “properties inside the convent of the nuns [were] also damaged,” said a resident who also asked not to be named.

The villagers said the parish priest and nuns were able to escape the attack with several parishioners.

Chan Thar village is predominantly Catholic and one of the historical villages in the archdiocese where the late archbishops U Win and Alphone U Than Aung came from.

Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia reported that security forces loyal to the military junta earlier burned down 132 houses after a firefight at a village in the central Magway region.

Sann-myo village lies in Gangaw township, in the northwest portion of the region. It once had more than 190 houses, but after last week’s attack only about 30 homes remain.

Junta forces previously attacked the town on December 21, destroying about 28 houses.

Human rights group estimated that a total of 1,963 houses in 90 villages across the country were destroyed in arson attacks in recent months.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar issued a statement early this month calling for humanitarian assistance to thousands of people who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict.

In a letter of appeal released on January 14, the Church leaders called on “all concerned” to facilitate “humanitarian access to suffering and internally displaced people.”

“Human dignity and the right to life can never be compromised,” the Church leaders said in the letter following their general assembly in Yangon last week.

The bishops also called for “respect for life, respect for the sanctity of sanctuary in places of worship, hospitals, and schools.”

The letter also expressed their appreciation to priests, nuns, and catechists who continue to take care of the people “in their flight from dangers of life.”

The bishops called on all Church workers, especially priests, religious men and women, and catechists, to continue the “mission of love and sacrifice for the people irrespective of the faith, race, and place.”

Thousands of people, including Buddhist monks, in eastern Myanmar continue to flee their homes as fighting between the military and rebel groups intensify this week, local media reports said.

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