A Baptist seminary in northern Myanmar was hit by artillery fire from the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army) late last week, injuring four students in the dormitory.
U.S. persecution-based watchdog International Christian Concern (ICC) reports the Tatmadaw shelled the Kachin Theological College located in Kutkai, Shan State Thursday. It was founded in 1932 by Kachin Baptist Convention.
Four men were hit by shrapnel, but their wounds were not life-threatening. There was no active fighting between junta forces and local ethnic armed groups at the time, according to the ICC.
Marip La Hkwang, an ethnic Kachin Christian, posted a video to Facebook showing damage caused by the shelling. Holes and dents could be seen on the windows, walls, and also tears in a student's clothing hung up in a room inside the dormitory.
Another video showed an injured student being escorted out of the building for medical treatment. One local resident said this kind of attack by the military threatens the Christian Bible school and the entire Kachin ethnic group.
"They (Military Council) hate our Kachin people so much," he told 72 Media. "This is why we are being targeted and attacked. This looks like a planned shooting. My heart hurts so much. Since this happened, we Kachin people must be careful."
"The attack against this Kachin Bible school was certainly not an accident," said Gina Goh, International Christian Concern'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 attack comes after an Oct. 30 shelling that partially destroyed a Baptist church and hall in Momauk township, Kachin State. The Tatmadaw also attacked concertgoers during the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)'s anniversary celebration on Oct. 23, killing at least 80 and injuring hundreds, the ICC reported.
The ethnic Kachin in Myanmar has a Christian majority, where more than 90 percent of the people adhere to the Christian faith. They also have one of the most robust militaries among the ethnic armed organizations in Myanmar, making them a constant target of the Tatmadaw.
As CBN News reported, over the past year, Myanmar's military regime has destroyed numerous churches and religious buildings, especially in the states of Chin and Kayah.
Nearly 35 churches and 15 affiliated buildings were demolished in predominantly Christian Chin State between February 2021 and January 2022, The Irrawaddy reported, citing the Chin Human Rights Organization and the Karenni Human Rights Group.
In mostly Christian Kayah State in southeastern Myanmar, 12 churches were demolished during that same period of time.
Myanmar's military is one of the largest in Southeast Asia and has a reputation for brutality after years of jungle warfare. It has long been accused of grave human rights violations against ethnic minority groups in different parts of the country.
The military government changed the country's name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. The U.S. government continues to use the name Burma.
U.S. Government Sanctions Arms Dealers Supporting Myanmar's Regime
Last month, the U.S. government sanctioned several arms dealers for providing support to Myanmar's regime. Following the Feb. 1, 2021, coup that overthrew Burma's democratically elected civilian government, the military has committed numerous atrocities against people in Burma, including the violent repression of political dissent, the killing of over 2,300 innocent civilians, and displacement of more than 900,000 people.
"We will continue to work with our partners to promote justice and accountability for atrocities and human rights violations and abuses in Burma, including in connection with the military coup and the ongoing violence perpetrated by the regime," U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement. "We remain committed to supporting the people of Burma and call for the protection of human rights, unhindered humanitarian access, and return to inclusive, multiparty democracy in Burma."
Myanmar was designated a Country of Particular Concern by Secretary Blinken on Nov. 15, 2021, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, and under the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 (Wolf Act).
The country is ranked 12th on Open Doors' 2022 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.