RANGOON – Most Western people still know Myanmar as Burma – a country somewhere in South Asia. Situated east of the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar borders Bangladesh, India, China, and Thailand.
Myanmar, then Burma, was evangelized in the early 1800s by Adoniram Judson who also completed the first Burmese language Bible. In 1950, there were 200,000 professing Christians in Burma. A 2014 census indicated that there are now more than three million believers in Myanmar. Christianity is now the second most popular religion in Myanmar, although fewer than 10 percent profess to be Christian.
Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist. It has been said that “To Be Burmese Is to Be Buddhist.” The Muslim Royhinga people have, in fact, fled Myanmar by the thousands because of physical persecution. Thus far, however, Christians are not so much persecuted as they are treated as outsiders.
World Watch Monitor recently published a video in which Pastor Tun explained how he what it is like to be regarded as outsiders in the Chin State.
In a word, life as a Christian there is inconvenient and, therefore, more difficult than necessary. Like minority groups around the world, they tend to be victims of unjustified discrimination.
Christians are under continual pressure from larger tribes to convert to Buddhism.
Village leaders strategically schedule mandatory meetings and medical clinics when Christian church services are scheduled.
Christians serving in the military are segregated from the other troops. Promotions are “hard to come by.”
Children in Christian families are not awarded scholarships in school even though they may excel in their studies.
Persecution with the threat of physical harm or endangerment gets more press, but being ignored and treated as though one has no standing whatsoever has a deleterious effect on anyone undergoing the onus of being an outsider, regardless of the reason.
Ironically, the predominantly Christian Chin people were instrumental in and played a key role in the formation of the country in which they are now considered outcasts.
- World Watch Monitor, ‘Being Burmese means being Buddhist’ – pastor explains discrimination faced by Christians in Myanmar
- Wikipedia, Christianity in Myanmar
- Harvard Divinity School Religious Literacy Project, Christianity in Myanmar
- Cultural Atlas, Myanmar (Burmese) Culture
- By Corto Maltese 1999 (Originally uploaded to Flickr as Chin Village) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- YouTube, World Watch Monitor