The Burmese army has requisitioned and desecrated the Catholic Church of St. John in the village of Chat, part of municipality of Mindat, in the Chin state in western Myanmar. A Baptist temple was also invaded and occupied.
Church sources from the diocese of Hakha, where Mindat is located, reported that the Burmese military occupied the places of worship and established their headquarters there on August 31, 2021.
The parish priest of St. John's Catholic Church, Fr. John Aung, has been kicked out, and he indignantly recounts the grave violation: “This is appalling. The military requisitioned the church for their use. They opened the tabernacle, took the consecrated hosts and threw them to the ground, trampling and pillaging them.
“They destroyed all the locked cabinets. We condemn the aggression and gratuitous violence and the desecration of our church, with the blatant violation of the freedom of worship.”
The village of Chat has 68 houses, 42 of which belong to Catholic families. The parish covers 20 villages in the region. When the soldiers arrived and clashed with some militants from the local resistance forces, the priest fled into the forest with the villagers.
A local priest, Fr. David Hmun, said: “We are shocked. It’s really unthinkable. Myanmar's military is no longer a people's army, but a militant terrorist group, which exercises violence on the population, on innocent civilians.”
Shane Aung Maung, one of the Baptist Christians, explained, “The soldiers destroyed our Bibles, the church furniture, the electric generators. They drink alcohol inside the building. They slaughter cattle and cook meat in the church.”
“The Tatmadaw [name of Myanmar’s army] is destabilizing the country, strikes people and property in Christian churches, kills unarmed and peaceful civilians, and burns down villages and homes. We are really upset,” he added.
The military occupation of the church came as fighting between the military and civil resistance groups - Chinland Defense Force (CDF) - intensified in Chin state, a predominantly Christian region.
The Institute of Chin Affairs, a non-profit organization created by leaders of the Chin ethnic group, currently based in India, has condemned acts of violence perpetrated by troops during the occupation of churches.
“The occupation of the church and the devastation of its property constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention. We call for an immediate end to acts contrary to international humanitarian law and human rights,” the Institute said in a statement sent to Fides.
The Institute condemns the murder of hundreds of Chin civilians in recent months and stresses that following the military coup of February 1, “the country is slipping into a fratricidal war that leads to ruin.”