· Vatican City ·

Two young witnesses of the Church in Myanmar killed on their way to the parish to organize aid for the displaced

Alfred and Patrick

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05 June 2021

They were killed mercilessly by snipers. Alfred Ludo and Patrick Bo Reh were two young Burmese Catholics who brought food and humanitarian aid to the internally displaced in the city of Demoso, Kayah state. In this city located in eastern Myanmar, in the territory of the Diocese of Loikaw, the clashes between the regular army and the peoples’ defence forces, which arose spontaneously in resistance to the military oppression, are intense. But there is a notable inequality of forces in the field: the artillery of Tatmadaw (the regular Burmese army) indiscriminately bombs the city, hitting houses, churches, including two Catholic, hospitals, and displacing thousands of people.

Since early February, Alfred and Patrick were among those young people who had chosen non-violent protest against the military junta that came into power with a coup d'état. The two youths, like thousands of their peers, saw their dreams shattered and the ideals of a prosperous and democratic future suddenly vanish. Saint Joseph’s Church, which was struck by mortar fire, is where Alfred and Patrick grew up, came to know and love the Gospel and received the sacraments. And, in the enthusiasm of their 18 years, they decided to stake their youth to follow Christ, the way, the truth and life. Thus, they did not hesitate when the parish got them involved with the volunteers who now aid and feed the displaced. It was precisely as they were making their way to the church by motorbike, to coordinate aid services, that they were hit by bullets that left no way out. They knew it was risky to move about but they said it was their fiat to bring urgent aid to the defenceless, needy, suffering people who had been welcomed into convents, parish halls, chapels and schools.

Their sacrifice has left a deep mark on the community that celebrated their funerals on Saturday, 28 May. “They are martyrs”, said Joe Thein, a local Catholic, to L’Osservatore Romano. Moses M. Chanmon, a teacher, said “we can’t help but praise and follow the example of these heroes”. A relative of Alfred remarked, “we are very saddened by the loss of two of our young people, but we are proud of them. They gave their lives for their neighbour, after Jesus’ example”.

The military targets young people, cracking down on opponents, resulting in thousands of teenagers being arrested, tortured, disappeared or killed across the country. unicef sounded the alarm, reporting that at least 53 youths under 18 have been killed in Myanmar since the army took over, and at least one thousand have been arrested without access to lawyers or their families. The generals governing the nation fear them in particular due to their attachment to democratic ideals and human rights. The sniper killings are meant to intimidate them but, according to Catholics in Demoso they will have the opposite effect. “Alfred and Patrick’s deaths will make young Burmese people even more united. They will find greater strength and determination within themselves for the fight for a future with justice, peace and democracy”, said local priest Fr Philip Aung Nge.

Paolo Affatato