Burmese Archbishop Remains Under House Arrest; 'We Are All Praying,' Priest Says
Observers say the military targeted the archbishop because the government believes it is dealing illegal firearms.
Mandalay Archbishop Marco Win Tin, Vicar General Monsignor Domenic Kyo Du and their respective staffs, along with approximately 20 diocesan priests, are still under house arrest and incommunicado at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart ever since government soldiers forcibly occupied the archdiocesan compound in the heart of downtown Mandalay Friday afternoon.
Relatives and friends of Vicar General Msgr. Domenic Kyo Du said they have been unable to contact the monsignor or anyone else on his staff since the incident began.
“His phone is off. No one is answering the phones there. The landlines are probably ripped out. I can’t get through,” one of these sources told CNA.
Approximately 40 government soldiers forcibly occupied the cathedral at 2:30 p.m. Friday prior to a Lenten prayer service. Worshipers inside the church — including a correspondent for CNA — were detained there for hours. The archbishop and other archdiocesan staff were herded into the cathedral, as well.
The worshipers eventually were allowed to leave, and about 30 officers remained in the cathedral overnight.
Not willing to be identified for safety reasons, four other local archdiocesan priests said they privately have solicited prayers amongst their parishioners for the archbishop and his staff, but they are barred from even mentioning the crisis publicly during Mass.
“I don’t know what to do on a practical level,” explained one priest. “I’m praying. We’re all praying but this is too far. We expected this considering the evils these people are committing in Chin States and the Karen, Karenni, Wu, and Shan provinces. They are slaughtering Christians everywhere in Myanmar.”
Myanmar is the legally enforced name for Burma instituted in 1988 after the second of three military coups to have rocked the country.
“We have prayer. Their guns won’t be enough to allow them to win,” explained another priest. “This is sacrilege.”
“They’re looking for guns and money to steal,” explained yet another priest. “They say they’re looking for guns and then disrupt everyone but they would be satisfied with a bribe. We know their ways. No one is fooled.”
Downtown Mandalay is tense and all unnecessary noise is carefully kept to a minimum. Locals are afraid of making a bad situation worse.
“Bad! Bad! Bad!” explained another priest. “The devil overcame them. It was their greed for money and gold that made them do this.”
When asked as to why the military believed that the archdiocese was dealing in guns, the same priest continued: “The military is losing badly. They are very unliked and attrition is very high indeed within their ranks. Even their officers are leaving. They have more than enough soldiers to continue fighting their wars against the country but deserters are common. No one supports them. They’ve been fed anti-Christian propaganda from the beginning. It’s the reason Catholics aren’t allowed above the rank of lieutenant.”
Asked for his assessment of the situation, he said, “They will lose. They will give up claims over the government and be content only with being a gray eminence. They must. This can’t continue. As it is, they’ve threatened to forcibly conscript young, able-bodied men into troops. But these are the ones who easily slip into the jungle at every turn. It’s all going to come crashing in on them.”
Many businesses are shuttered, as typically happens during tense military actions, to which the locals have grown accustomed.
Only smaller family shops remain open to serve the community’s needs. Street vendors and hawkers have either volunteered to leave the vicinity or have been forced out of the area by the military. The Catholics among them glance furtively at the high walls surrounding the Cathedral compound.
“Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. I don’t know if anyone will be allowed to go to the Holy Mass,” said one concerned parishioner. “These people are crazy. You cannot expect rational words or actions from them.”
“Prior to the coup last year, the military already had too much power. They forced us to give them concessions with our parliament in 2010 but that wasn’t enough to appease them,” added the man’s wife, speaking through an interpreter.
“The military already owned all gold, silver and jade mines in the country,” she said. “All cigarette companies and sales. All beer breweries and whiskey distilleries. They even owned a fast food chicken chain and a popular donut chains, but it wasn’t enough for them.”