YANGON, Myanmar — A church official from the Diocese of Loikaw told ucanews.com that he was in the middle of a war zone, with sounds of gunfire, artillery shelling and airstrikes a daily affair.
He said the city of Loikaw, in Kayah state, had hundreds of people, “especially women, children and the elderly,” who were displaced from their homes.
Ucanews.com reported at least 15 parishes in Loikaw Diocese have been severely affected by escalating fighting, while at least seven Catholic churches have been hit by artillery shelling and airstrikes.
Myanmar’s military junta is now battling ethnic armed groups and local militia groups on multiple fronts. Kayah state, a remote and mountainous region, is regarded as a stronghold of Catholicism in the Buddhist-majority country. About 90,000 Catholics live in the state with a population of 355,000.
More than 650 houses and other civilian properties, including churches, monasteries and schools, have been burned or destroyed in Kayah since May 2021, according to reports cited by the United Nations.
On Feb. 15, a building in the compound of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Doungankhar was hit by artillery shelling by the military.
The extent of damage could not be ascertained as church officials could not reach the place amid ongoing fighting, a church source told ucanews.com. The church also was hit by artillery shelling in June 2021.
Meanwhile, soldiers encamped inside Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Doukhu destroyed windows and pictures of the Way of the Cross in mid-February, according to church sources.
The church was hit by military airstrikes Jan. 12, and one of the two bell towers was destroyed, but there were no reports of civilian casualties.
A local priest condemned the attack as an “abomination, desecration and sacrilege.”
Ucanews.com reported a Baptist church and a camp for displaced people in another village also were hit by military shelling Feb. 10; one person was injured.