In Burma, hundreds of monks forced to flee the fighting



They would be hundreds to have been forced to abandon their monasteries, on the borders of eastern Burma, bloody theater for almost a year of the civil war between the military junta in power and the rebel factions. Several witnesses reported to Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday, January 16, having observed a significant movement of departure of Buddhist clerics towards areas less exposed to clashes.

→ CONTEXT. In Burma, resistance to the junta does not weaken

In the city of Loikaw (state of Kayah), on the Thai border, about thirty buildings have been deserted from their occupants, indicated a source on condition of anonymity, still assuring that many monks would have also left the agglomeration of Demoso, a few kilometers away. In recent days, these territories have been targeted by air strikes and artillery fire. While the UN estimates that half the population of Loikaw had to leave and that nearly 90,000 people from Kayah State have fled, local media put the number of displaced people at more than 170,000. .

Call to prayer

The violence in the predominantly Christian states of Kayah, Chin and Karen has also forced large numbers of Burmese worshipers to leave their homes and seek refuge in church institutions. Faced with this new escalation of the conflict, the Catholic Church launched on Wednesday 12 January an appeal to all the faithful for unity and prayer for the “return of peace”.

In Burma, Cardinal Bo criticized for his dialogue with the military junta

On a territory “torn by Covid-19, hunger, civil war and torture”, Catholics should not “don’t lose hope” and must keep “deep faith” in God, urged Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, calling more specifically for “an hour of adoration” every Saturday evening. A member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, he is one of the only public figures to appear openly in support of pro-democracy activists.

“True Peace”

This Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since February 1, 2021: a coup overthrew President Aung San Suu Kyi and ended a decade of democratic transition. In recent months, resistance to the government army has grown stronger around militias and a growing number of civilians. Since the putsch, the international community has remained powerless in its attempts to revolutionize the conflict. According to a UN report dated January 11, approximately 1,400 Burmese were killed, and 1,550 homes and other civilian properties – including churches and schools – were destroyed.

→ MAINTENANCE. Agnès Callamard: “The universality of rights is a fundamental principle”

On Christmas Eve, in Kayah State, at least 35 people were killed, their bodies burned, in a massacre blamed on the military.“When will the decades of civil war in Myanmar end? », virulently challenged Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon and President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Myanmar (CBCM), in an appeal launched the day after the tragedy. “When can we enjoy true peace, justice and true freedom? When will we stop killing each other? »

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