Civilians, clergy forced to flee Myanmar cathedral amid army takeover

Civilians, including elderly residents and patients seeking refuge, were compelled to evacuate a Myanmar cathedral as junta soldiers forcibly seized control on November 27.

Bishop Celso Ba Shwe of Loikaw and clergy members, alongside a congregation of worshippers, found themselves displaced from Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw due to the intrusion.

“It’s sorrowful to learn about the occupation of the junta troops in the cathedral complex. I feel broken as our holy place will be desecrated” Katherine Mu, a resident of Loikaw diocese, told UCA News.

The takeover occurred a day after the feast of Christ the King, which used to draw thousands of people annually.

However this year was a low-key event, with Bishop Shwe leading a Mass at the Bishop’s House. The bishop led prayers for peace amidst mounting tensions.

Despite escalating conflict and a population exodus spurred by air strikes and artillery attacks on Karenni rebel forces in Kayah state, Bishop Shwe, clergy, and nearly 50 others remained within the cathedral compound.

Soldiers first entered the cathedral complex on November 26 but left following complaints by Church officials.

However, they stormed the complex the next day and took control of it.

“On the evening of November 26, at least five shells fired by junta forces hit the compound. But there were no casualties” said a Church source.

This conflict in Kayah state is a continuation of the military’s actions since November 2021. It has been marked by raids on the Bishop’s House, Church premises and a clinic, resulting in the arrest of healthcare workers after the military coup earlier that year.

Amidst the escalating violence, aid groups estimate approximately 250,000 displaced persons in 200 camps across Kayah state, with many finding shelter in Church-operated facilities.

The conflict has forced the abandonment of numerous parishes, with churches and convents bearing the brunt of airstrikes and shelling.


UCA News

Catholic News Agency

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