Refugees fleeing fighting between the army and insurgents in Myanmar Refugees fleeing fighting between the army and insurgents in Myanmar 

Myanmar Bishops urge fighting parties to allow humanitarian relief

Meeting in Yangon for their General Assembly, the Bishops of Myanmar express deep concern over the escalation of fighting between the Tatmadaw and rebel forces, and urge all parties to facilitate access to humanitarian relief.

By Lisa Zengarini

As violence continues to escalate in Myanmar, Burmese Bishops have urged all parties involved to allow and facilitate access to humanitarian relief, to stop targeting civilians, and to respect the integrity of churches, hospitals, and schools.

“Human dignity and the right to life should never be compromised,” the Bishops write in a joint statement released on Friday. “We appeal for the respect of life, of the sacredness of sanctuaries in places of worship, and of the integrity of hospitals and schools. All those who try to help people must be protected.”

Thousands of displaced

Fighting between the military junta and rebel forces in Kayah, Chin, and Karen States has intensified dramatically in the last weeks, killing civilians indiscriminately and displacing thousands of people.

Churches have also been damaged in the fighting. The latest incident occurred in a parish church in the diocese of Loikaw which was hit by an airstrike.

Concern for the escalation

The local Catholic Church and humanitarian organizations, such as Unicef,  have voiced their concern over the escalation, also condemning the killing of children. Last week, at least four children were killed and many others were seriously wounded in different incidents.

In their statement, the Catholic Bishops of Myanmar, gathered in Yangon for their General Assembly from 11-14 January, say they are “deeply saddened by the current situation” in the conflict areas involving “innocent people and in particular of internally displaced persons, children, women, the elderly and the sick, regardless of race and faith.”

"Thousands are on the run and many are dying of hunger,” the statement remarks.

Helping the displaced and praying for peace

The Bishops also express gratitude to all the priests and religious engaged in giving shelter to those fleeing the fighting.

"This nation will be healed by these gestures," they say, encouraging all Catholic dioceses to promote peace in the country “through all possible efforts”, especially prayer.

“Our service will reach every person in this country, regardless of race or religion,” the Bishops say.

Over 1,400 dead since the coup

Since the military coup on 1 February 2021, over 1,400 people have been killed, including at least 50 children, and more than 10,000 people have been detained. Among them are also Catholic priests and Protestant pastors.

Many cases of torture have been reported during the military crackdowns on the pro-democracy movement.

15 January 2022, 10:12