The military junta in Myanmar has occupied the Loikaw cathedral complex and plans to use the building as a shield in its war against resistance forces, says the local bishop who was forced to flee the complex. Source: UCA News.
The junta, in its attempts to control the strategically important Loikaw city, the capital of Kayah state, took over the Christ the King’s Cathedral complex on Sunday. The complex houses the bishop’s residence, pastoral centre, clergy house and a clinic.
The takeover forced Bishop Celso Ba Shwe of Loikaw and resident priests and religious to flee. At the time, the complex had 82 people, including 10 priests, 16 religious and some employees, Bishop Shwe said in a letter.
Some 50 soldiers occupied the cathedral complex “to make use of it as a shield” against the resistance forces, said the letter that the bishop wrote before fleeing.
The junta assumes the resistance force will not advance if they have to harm a religious place such as a cathedral or a church, according to a source.
There is a significant Christian population in the state and the Karenni resistance force, which opposes the junta, is believed to have Christians among its members.
Kayah, Myanmar’s smallest state, has some 300,000 people, some 45 per cent of them Christians. Catholics number about 91,000.
The fight is to wrest control of strategically important Loikaw city, a centre of junta administration. It also has several army bases.
The cathedral is fully under the junta’s control. “At the moment no Church person is inside the cathedral complex. After the soldiers took over, it has been totally abandoned,” a Church source said yesterday.
The bishop and the clergy who fled the cathedral are now staying in a remote parish of the diocese. Some other priests of the diocese are in the parishes in nearby Pekhon and Taunggyi dioceses in southern Shan state.