Burmese army bombs Baptist Seminary, students hit by shrapnel

STR/AFP via Getty Images
STR/AFP via Getty Images

Myanmar's military junta bombed a Baptist seminary in Shan State, injuring at least four men in the dormitory. 

The army, locally known as the Tatmadaw, shelled the Theological Seminary in the Kutkai area of Shan State on Thursday, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported.

Four men, aged between 21 and 27, were hit by shrapnel and sustained non-life-threatening injuries while they were in the dormitory of the school which the Kachin Baptist Convention founded.

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Formerly known as Burma, the Southeast Asian country is home to the world’s longest Civil War, which began in 1948.

The conflict between the Tatmadaw and ethnic minority militias escalated after the February 2021 military coup, as the ethnic militias have been supporting pro-democracy protesters. The conflict zones are along Myanmar’s borders with India, Thailand and China.

A video posted to social media showed damage caused by the shelling. Visible holes and dents could be seen on the windows, walls and students' clothing. Another video showed an injured student being escorted out for medical treatment.

A local resident was quoted as saying that this kind of attack by the military threatens the Christian Bible school and the entire Kachin nation.

Christians make up just over 7% of the majority-Buddhist nation but are a majority in Chin State, which borders India, and Kachin State, which borders China. Christians also make up a substantial part of the population of Kayah State, which borders Thailand.

“The attack against this Kachin Bible school was certainly not an accident,” said Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia. “Instead, the Tatmadaw deliberately targeted a Christian facility knowing how important the faith is to Kachin people. This despicable junta regime should not be tolerated any further by the international community and needs to be removed at once.”

The shelling of the Baptist seminary comes after a separate attack on Oct. 23 when at least 80 people, including leading Kachin musicians, were killed in the junta’s aerial bombing of a concert in Kachin State’s Hpaknat township, according to UCA News. The tragedy prompted many people to “black out their profile photo on Facebook to show sorrow for the victims and solidarity with ethnic Kachin people.”

The concert was to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army, which hundreds of people attended, including members of the KIA.

More than 2,400 people have been killed, and over 16,000 people have been jailed and tortured by the Tatmadaw, ICC noted.

In June, multiple reports, including by the U.N., revealed that Myanmar’s Buddhist nationalist junta had disproportionately targeted religious minorities, including Christians, and brutally attacked and killed hundreds of children since the military coup.

Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said in a report at the time that “the junta’s relentless attacks on children underscore the generals’ depravity and willingness to inflict immense suffering on innocent victims in its attempt to subjugate the people of Myanmar.”

Focusing on the killing of children, the U.N. rapporteur said during his fact-finding for the report, “I received information about children who were beaten, stabbed, burned with cigarettes, and subjected to mock executions, and who had their fingernails and teeth pulled out during lengthy interrogation sessions.”

Since the coup, the military had killed at least 142 children in Myanmar, the U.N. report added.

“Over 250,000 children have been displaced by the military’s attacks and over 1,400 have been arbitrarily detained. At least 61 children, including several younger than 3 years of age, are reportedly being held as hostages. The U.N. has documented the torture of 142 children since the coup.”

Myanmar is ranked No. 12 on Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution. The persecution level in Myanmar is “very high” due to Buddhist nationalism. Burma is recognized by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for egregious violations of religious liberty.

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