Army destroys Catholic church in Myanmar
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
The Burmese army has destroyed a Catholic Church in northeast Myanmar.
According to the Vatican's Fides news agency, the army set ablaze the ancient Church of the Assumption, in Chan Thar, a village inhabited by Catholics in the Sagaing region within the Archdiocese of Mandalay's territory.
During the 15 January attack, the soldiers also set fire to the nearby convent of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary.
The sisters were forced to flee with some 3,000 villagers, whose homes, numbering around 500, were also destroyed. Only rubble remains of the village.
Clashes continue in the area, and local sources told Fides that the area is considered a stronghold of the People's Defense Forces rebels, who oppose the Burmese military junta that came to power with the February 2021 coup d'etat.
Time of great suffering
Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay lamented that the people of Myanmar are "living in a time of great suffering."
"The violence rages especially in some areas,” the Archbishop said, “we do not lose hope because we know we have the Lord with us.”
He said the faithful trust in God.
“The fact that the chapel of adoration of the destroyed church was spared by the flames,” he said, “is a symbolic fact which consoles the faithful and reminds them that our only refuge is the Lord."
Asking not to resist nor oppose
Sister Rita, one of the religious sisters forced to flee, told Fides that she and the other sisters asked inhabitants of the village to leave their homes, and "not to oppose the soldiers and not to resist, to avoid massacres and brutality."
“The soldiers," she said, “want to crush any resistance from the civilians. They enter the villages, occupy buildings like schools and churches and camp there. From there, they carry out raids from house to house to flush out the rebels. They stayed in our church for three days and when they left they set fire to the church and our convent."
From this region, of ancient evangelization, where the French religious of the Foreign Missions of Paris (MEP) settled in the 19th century, many vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life were born. There were seminaries, training institutes for catechists, and flourishing church building and pastoral work continued for decades.
A priests from Chan Thar, Father Joseph, expressed disappointment to Fides that "the Burmese military are no longer the professional soldiers of a state army, with an ethic or mission of defending the nation."
Many locals still are heartbroken for the at least eleven children died following a regular army airstrike on a civilian populated area in Sagaing in September.