13 Catholic Bishops along with president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, appealed for peace and reconciliation on humanitarian grounds saying, “We are not politicians, we are faith leaders, accompanying our people in their journey towards human dignity.” The appeal was issued in the wake of recent attacks on four Churches and the onset of monsoon.
A local Christian leader informed that on May 24, four people were killed and at least eight injured when heavy artillery struck a Catholic church in Loikaw township where more than 300 villagers had sought refuge.
On May 29, Tatmadaw (Burmese regime) forces raided a Catholic seminary in Loikaw where more than 1,300 civilians were sheltering, killing a volunteer cook and eating the food he had prepared. The same day the Tatmadaw raided and looted a Catholic parish house and convent in Demoso.
On June 6, a Catholic church in Demoso called Queen of Peace, which had raised a white flag of peace, was damaged by artillery fire. “If the churches are no longer safe for the people to take shelter and protection, where can we find safer places?” asked the community leader.
Loikaw is the capital of Kayah State in Myanmar. The predominantly Christian area is located in the Karen Hills area, near the State’s northern tip, just above an embayment on the Pilu River.
The Tatmadaw justified its attacks on churches by claiming that the facilities sheltered “local rebels.”
The letter which had four distinct parts of appeal was dated 11the June 2021. In the first part Bishops called on Catholics to join a nationwide prayer campaign “to seek compassion in the hearts of all and peace to the nation.”
Second appeal was for opening of humanitarian corridors in the conflict zones pleading for aid “to reach out to the starving masses wherever they are. These are our citizens and they have basic rights to food and safety.”
Third appeal called on the government “to observe the international norms of sanctuary in war times : churches, monasteries, Mosques, temples and other places of worship and hospitals, schools are recognized as neutral places of refuge during conflict.”
Fourth appeal called on people of good will to work for durable peace for a country that suffered conflict over the last six decades. The Bishops insisted that, “this country deserves to join the community of nations, putting [its] past to history and invest in peace.”