The Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) has continually targeted churches and civilians in Myanmar’s predominantly Christian regions where thousands of people have fled since the February coup last year.
According to UCA News, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Doukhu Parish of Loikaw township in Kayah state was hit by military airstrikes on Jan. 12, according to church sources. One of the two bell towers of the church was destroyed but there were no reported casualties of civilians.
A local priest slammed the attack as abominable and sacrilegious. “Most tragically, the ones who are suffering because of the brutal persecution are the people of God,” he wrote on Facebook.
Since January, Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, has seen intensified fighting between local defense groups opposed to the Tatmadaw and their coup. The junta launches airstrikes and fires artillery against civilians, displacing almost half of the population of Loikaw.
According to reports cited by the UN, more than 650 houses and other civilian properties including churches, monasteries and schools have been burned or destroyed in Kayah state since May 2021.
At least 15 parishes in Loikaw Diocese that covers Kayah state have been severely affected by the escalating fighting, while at least seven Catholic churches in the diocese have been hit by artillery shelling and airstrikes.
An estimate of 170,000 people is thought to have left homes in Myanmar’s Kayah state due to worsening attacks. Aid groups’ attempt to provide food and daily necessities have been hindered by the Tatmadaw.