Violence against Christians in Myanmar: Burmese priest David Michael de Penha testifies


On the occasion of prayer vigils for persecuted Christians, organized by the association Aid to the Church in Need from January 21 to 27, 2023, Catholic priest David Michael de Penha testified to the terrible persecutions suffered by Christians in Myanmar. .

Alongside a Haitian nun, Sister Marjorie, and a Chadian bishop, Edmond Djitangar, Burmese priest David Michael de Penha spoke to recount the violence suffered by Christians in Myanmar during the Night of Witnesses 2023.

This annual event, organized in several French cities by theAid to the Church in Need association took place from January 21 to 27, 2023. Its purpose is to remember the Christians killed during the past year.

Father David Michael de Penha, who now lives in Kensas, testified "to the systematic discrimination that Christians have suffered since the military junta came to power in 2021".

Sunday January 15, a few days before the religious testified, a predominantly Catholic village of Chan Thar in the northwest of the country was set on fire by the ruling junta. Hundreds of houses were destroyed, forcing thousands of villagers to flee. L'Church of the Assumption in the Diocese of Mandalay was also burned as well as a convent of Franciscan nuns.

The priest spoke of this new manifestation of violence, stressing that “the Burmese army is targeting Christian villages”.

“On January 15, the military junta attacked a village not far from my home. Built in 1894, the church was one of the oldest in the country. She was set on fire. The army also destroyed 500 homes. »

Following this attack, Pope Francis appealed for peace in Myanmar on the occasion of the Angelus prayer, Sunday January 22.

"My thoughts go in particular with sorrow to Burma, where the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption was burned down and destroyed in the village of Chan Thar, one of the oldest and most important places of worship from the country. I am close to the defenseless civilian population, which in many cities is subject to serious hardship. May God grant that this conflict will soon end and that a new time of forgiveness, love and peace will open. »

As a reminder, on February 1, 2021, a military coup took place against the democratic government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Following this seizure of power, a Movement of Civil Disobedience was born, peaceful demonstrations which were largely repressed by the army and led to a wave of violence in the country.

David Michael de Penha, believes that the Pope's recent appeal is important, he sorry however that the Burmese bishops remain silent in the face of the acts committed by the regime since the coup d'etat, unlike the faithful who protest.

“We often have the impression that the Church forgets us. Here in Burma, our bishops remain silent. They are frightened by the idea of ​​being arrested. What I understand. (...) But the faithful are raising their voices against the regime. They would therefore like their bishops to stand up with them (...) I have the impression that there is a gap between Catholics and the Burmese Church. »

Myanmar is ranked 14th in theWorld Index of Persecution of Christians 2023 of the NGO Portes Ouvertes. In this Asian country, “most Christians belong to ethnic minorities”.

"They are neglected by the government, often extremely poor, discriminated against and illiterate", specifies the organization which adds that while "the country has still not found a solution to the civil war and the violence which followed the coup military state on February 1, 2021", "the Christian minority is among those who suffer the most attacks".

Melanie Boukorras

Image credit: Screenshot / YouTube video - Teaser Night of Witnesses 2023

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