Burmese rebels have launched a fresh offensive in the civil war that broke out almost three years ago, prompting displaced civilians to seek shelter in churches.
Armed insurgent groups began new manoeuvres last week, attacking Burma (Myanmar)’s ruling military junta, according to local news reports.
The latest offensive aims to support a co-ordinated military push called Operation 1027, which started in late October in Shan State, east Burma and has spread to other regions, including Chin and Kayah States, causing widespread displacement.
Regina Lynch, International Executive President of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), said: “We heard of strong attacks in several dioceses.
“The recent days have seen a significant escalation in violence and displacement.
“An increasing number of urgent requests for prayer have been reaching us from this country in the last days.”
Ms Lynch added: “Throughout the last three years of civil war, the Church has been standing by the people, who have faced the destruction of numerous places of worship and the displacement of entire villages.
“However, this new spiral of violence requires us with new urgency to remember our brothers and sisters in this remote and often forgotten part of the world.
“The suffering has reached a critical point, prompting ever more civilians to seek refuge in churches as safe havens.”
She said that there have been some worrying reports “about distressing incidents within sacred compounds” and some churches have even “become zones of conflict and religious institutions have been forcibly evacuated”.
She explained: “In different places, collateral damage to church properties has been reported, adding to the gravity of the situation.”
As the situation continues to deteriorate, ACN’s local partners have issued a plea for prayers.
A local source told ACN: “The situation is dire, and we humbly request everyone to pray for us during these challenging times.”
Ms Lynch also called for prayers for Burma.
She concluded: “Among the many conflicts in the world right now, the people in [Burma] Myanmar feel left alone in the midst of their suffering, so our solidarity is a beacon of light in the darkness they are facing.”
With thanks to Maria Lozano