Military forces in Myanmar fighting an insurgency in the east of the country fired a missile that landed on a Catholic church, killing four people inside.
The four people who were killed, as well as several who were injured, were all Catholics and were part of a larger group taking shelter from the fighting.
The incident occurred around 1 am local time on Monday and was reported by the Union of Catholic Asian News.
More than 300 people from at least 60 families had taken refuge in the Sacred Heart Church compound in Kayanthayar Parish near Loikaw, the capital city of Kayah state, UCANews reported. There was fighting in the area between the military and an anti-coup resistance group known as the People’s Defense Force (PDF) over the weekend. The roof, ceiling and cross of the church were damaged.
Fr. Soe Naing, a spokesman for the Diocese of Loikaw, told the news service that all those sheltering in the church had fled by the time church officials checked the damaged building on the morning of May 24.
“He said thousands of people have taken refuge at churches, priests’ centers and nuns’ convents because they are deemed to be safe,” said UCANews.
“The Church is responding to humanitarian assistance but it’s a challenge for us as the number of internally displaced persons is increasing as a result of more fighting,” Fr. Soe Naing said.
The news service said there were clashes in eastern Myanmar over the weekend. The military launched airstrikes in Demoso town in Kayah state on the evening of May 23, while tanks and trucks with soldiers were heading into Demoso town on May 24 morning, UCANews said, citing local sources.
“Fighting is also raging in ethnic areas such as Karen, Kachin and Chin states, which have large Christian populations, as the military steps up its offensive against ethnic guerrillas and anti-coup resistance groups by deploying fighter jets and heavy artillery,” UCANews reported.
The military in Myanmar seized power February 1, cracking down on anti-coup protesters and other civilians. At least 815 people been killed since the beginning of the coup.
More than 60 Christian churches have been destroyed in Kachin state since a long-standing ceasefire broke down in 2011, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.