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Burmese clergy forced to abandon parishes and hide in the jungle after wave of persecution

by Kelly Valencia

At least 14 parishes in the Burmese state of Kayah have been abandoned by priests fearing persecution by the military leadership currently controlling Myanmar.

According to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), many priests and members of religious orders have accompanied their people “taking refuge in the jungle or in remote villages” while other remain “in almost deserted villages”.

Among those states most affected by the conflict are Chin, Kayah and Karen, all of which have significant Christian populations. On Christmas Eve, in Mo So village, Kayah state, over 35 innocent civilians were killed, burned and maimed.

According to Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, international executive president of ACN, Loikaw, the capital of Kayah state, has been one of the main targets for army attacks over the past few weeks.

He said: “Among the thousands of refugees from the surrounding areas, there were also 300 internally displaced people who have taken refuge in the cathedral compound. Most of these are elderly, women, disabled and children who had nowhere to go, or means to escape.”

“It has been a year of terror and suffering, which has disrupted the course of this Asian country. The response of the military leadership to the massive demonstrations against its abuse of power has been ruthless and brutal.”

1st February 2022 will mark exactly one year since the military seized power after detaining the elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), who the Burmese army claim won electoral victory by fraud. 

ACN intends to mark the one-year anniversary with an international day of prayer to “remember the dead and intercede for the innocent civilian population…regardless of ethnicities and faiths.” 

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