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‘Give up hatred,’ says displaced Myanmar bishop amid military takeover

Bishop Celso Ba Shwe of Loikaw (center) presides over a Holy Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Taunggyi city of Shan state on March.3. (Photo: Loikaw diocese)

A Myanmar bishop who was forced to flee his diocese last November due to a military takeover continues to appeal for peace.

“It is time to find true freedom and lasting peace by building reconciliation and giving up hatred, aggression, and hostility,” said Bishop Celso Ba Shwe of Loikaw in a homily on March 3.

The prelate stressed how peace is long overdue, especially now that the people of Myanmar are weary of their “tough” journey for the past three years, mired by civil war and military coups.

Authorities displaced the 59-year-old bishop from his residence in Christ the King Cathedral in November 2023, a day after the Feast of Christ the King.

The military junta has taken over the church and used it as a shield against fast-advancing rebel forces.

They did not expect the rebels to attack places of worship because some of its members are Christians, according to Bishop Shwe.

He found refuge in Shan State and later moved to Demoso in Kayah State, which was under his diocesan jurisdiction.

Some priests, religious workers, and church employees fled with the bishop and now stay with him in his temporary residence in Demoso.

The takeover has caused nearly all of the 41 parishes in the conflict-torn region of Loikaw to be abandoned, with the faithful moving away from their homes, leading to the fading of ecclesiastical boundaries.

Air strikes and shelling have also left several churches with massive damage, including the Assumption Church in the Nananttaw area.

While he cannot return to his cathedral and residence for now, local Catholics stated that Bishop Shwe has been providing “moral support and spiritual guidance” to the faithful.

He was reported to be making pastoral visits to the displaced Catholics in Taunggyi City and Nyaung Shwe, a town in Shan state.

At present, the rebel groups, including the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, and the army are fighting for control of Loikaw.

Around 250,000 people in Kayah state have been displaced because of the conflict since the coup in February 2021 and are currently living in temporary camps.


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