The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar issued a statement last week calling for humanitarian assistance to thousands of people who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in the country.
In a letter of appeal released on January 14, the Church leaders called on “all concerned” to facilitate “humanitarian access to suffering and internally displaced people.”
“Human dignity and the right to life can never be compromised,” the Church leaders said in the letter following their general assembly in Yangon last week.
The bishops also called for “respect for life, respect for the sanctity of sanctuary in places of worship, hospitals, and schools.”
The letter also expressed their appreciation to priests, nuns, and catechists who continue to take care of the people “in their flight from dangers of life.”
The bishops called on all Church workers, especially priests, religious men and women, and catechists, to continue the “mission of love and sacrifice for the people irrespective of the faith, race, and place.”
Thousands of people, including Buddhist monks, in eastern Myanmar continue to flee their homes as fighting between the military and rebel groups intensify this week, local media reports said.
Loikaw town in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah state saw intense fighting last week that the United Nations estimates has forced almost 90,000 people to flee.
Local NGOs have placed that figure far higher at 170,000.
“More than half the population of Loikaw township has been internally displaced,” the UN said.
A Buddhist monk told AFP around 30 monasteries had been abandoned — an unusual sight in a nation where holy men are revered and temples are considered safe havens.
“It was impossible for us to stay there,” the monk said, requesting anonymity for his safety.
“It was hard to make the decision to leave, but we had to do it.”
The monk, among roughly 5,000 people who have fled Loikaw to eastern Shan state, said 12 monasteries in nearby Demoso town had also been emptied.
A community leader in Taunggyi in Shan state said last week he had seen a group of at least 30 monks arrive in the township seeking refuge.
A Christian priest told AFP about 15 priests also fled Loikaw last week.
Rebel fighters have taken over churches and homes in the town and also attacked a prison, said a policeman who asked for anonymity.
“The town is deserted like a cemetery. The situation in town is very bad,” he said.
Roughly 600 vehicles were leaving the town daily, the police officer added.
Both Demoso and Loikaw are rebel strongholds and the UN says fighting has intensified in the region since December.
Over Christmas the bodies of at least 35 people — including two Save the Children NGO workers — were found burnt in Kayah state, an atrocity blamed on junta troops. – with a report from Agence France Presse