Abducted Catholic priest, catechist released by Burmese militia

Jose Torres Jr.   By Jose Torres Jr. for CNA

Crucifix file photo / Paul Sri/CNA

Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 6, 2021 / 18:01 pm (CNA).

A Catholic priest and a catechist who were abducted last month by a group of armed militia in Burma’s Chin state were released Aug. 4.

A Catholic priest in Burma, also known as Myanmar, who asked not to be named “for security reasons,” told the news site LiCAS.news that the abducted priest and catechist were released through the “intercession” of local church leaders.

“They were released after negotiations and talks,” said the priest. “They are now safe and are resting somewhere,” he added.

In a statement on Aug. 1, Bishop Hre Kung of the Diocese of Hakha appealed for the release of the priest and the catechist who were taken by members of the Chinland Defense Force on July 26.

“I call on the concerned leaders of the CDF to immediately release the pair,” said the bishop in his statement.

The prelate said Father Noel Hrang Tin Thang and the unnamed catechist were traveling from the town of Surkhua to Hakha when nabbed by the activists who accused the priest of conniving with the military.

Father Paul Thla Kio, a priest in Hakha, however, told Catholic news agency Fidesearlier that Father Tin Thang only talked with a Catholic general who often visits the priests’ residence.

The abducted priest reportedly asked the military general to avoid fighting in the city to spare civilians from being caught in the armed conflict.

In a statement, the CDF accused the priest of giving information to the military, getting medical support from the junta, and urging people to receive the junta’s support.

The militia group also said it had warned the priest not to contact the military’s security force but the priest failed to comply.

“We will release them only after our demands of transferring the priest from Surkhua to Hakha and signing letters of recommendation from two church leaders are fulfilled,” the group said in a statement before the release.

The resistance group has been organized supposedly “to protect civilians” from the military after the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government of the country.

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