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HomeNewsChristmas in Myanmar nearly three years since the military coup

Christmas in Myanmar nearly three years since the military coup

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

As Myanmar approaches its third Christmas since the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup, the situation facing the nation’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious peoples’ is worsening by the day.

One thousand and fifty-five days since the coup and over 2.6 million people have been displaced from their homes due to violence perpetrated by the military. More than 378 civilians have been killed and 508 have been injured since the Operation 1027 offensive was launched by the Brotherhood Alliance to “end military dictatorship” on Oct. 27.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) states that 4,265 people have been killed by pro-military groups in Myanmar since 2021. Another 700 killed have yet to be verified and added to AAPP statistics.

The 2014 census indicated that 6.3 percent of Myanmar’s population is Christian. This religious minority lives predominantly in conflict-affected areas, such as Chin State, located in the west of the country, where 85 percent of the population is Christian. 

Karenni State, located in the east, is 45 percent Christian. Kachin State, located in the north, is 33 percent Christian. Shan State, located in the northeast, is 9.8 percent Christian. And Karen State, located in the southeast, is 9.5 percent Christian. 

‘The Christmas spirit doesn’t exist for us here. We are worried. We have no joy given our situation. We’re filled with anxiety as all we can think about is when the fighting will resume and airstrikes will reoccur,” said Lu Si Yar, a woman living in a Karenni State Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.

On Dec. 15, Bishop Celso Ba Shwe of Loikaw diocese, in the Karenni State capital, sent his Christmas message from neighboring Pekon Township in Shan State where he had to flee when the military seized and occupied his cathedral complex on Nov. 27. 

“This distressful event might have caused many to ask such a question as whether or not our parishes are still functioning, and many people may wonder if Loikaw diocese still exists,” said Bishop Ba Shwe.

He added that the situation of his diocese was “highly dangerous.”

The Progressive Karenni People’s Force (PKPF) stated that 43 religious buildings were damaged or destroyed by airstrikes, arson and artillery attacks by the military on Karenni State. In Chin State, 95 religious buildings have been destroyed by airstrikes and arson since the coup.

‘The church stands were destroyed, and approximately 38 houses were burned, compelling residents to flee. Some sought refuge in the forests, while others resettled elsewhere. This Christmas, it is impossible to have a community celebration,” said the Bishop at Ramthlo Baptist Church in Falam Township of Chin State. 

In November 2022, hundreds of homes were burned down by the military in Mon Hla village, a predominantly Catholic community located in Sagaing Region. This is the hometown of Cardinal Charles Bo, the archbishop of Yangon.

“In the midst of these atrocities, deep within our desperate hearts we may hear a sighing whisper: ‘Will this Christmas make a difference in my life or in the life of the world?’” said Cardinal Bo in his recent Christmas message.

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