Five people are dead and eight church buildings have been damaged since late May in a rising number of attacks in Myanmar.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that in eastern Myanmar, fighting between the Burmese military and local militias has led to the attacks.
"From May 23 to June 6, the military used heavy weapons against the local forces," the persecution watchdog reports. "The Golden Temple of Jesus and Jeroblo Marian Shrine and Our Lady of Lourdes Cave in Pekon, Mother Mary’s Church in Moebye, St. Joseph’s Church in Demoso, the Catholic Church in Daw Ngan Khar Village, and St. Peter’s Church in Loikaw were all damaged in the various attacks."
“It’s just a building, but it hurts people in their hearts," a Catholic priest in Kayah state told Radio Free Asia (RFA). "Are they just targeting us? I would like to appeal to both sides not to carry out such attacks in future.”
ICC says that oftentimes, locals will seek shelter in churches when villages are under attack. "During the clashes in Moebye and Pekon, local people sought a safe haven in churches, but many civilians were injured as the military raided and attacked them, residents said."
One parishoner in Kayah says that losing their church building is devastating. "We would rather have our house hit than the church,” she says.
“The attacks on religious buildings is a violation of international laws of war," Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for the parallel National Unity Government says. "The shooting of people who are hiding and taking refuge in there is another serious matter.”
The fighting in Kayah state has displaced over 100,000 people since May 20, and ICC says that 40,000 of those people are seeking refuge in 23 churches.