YANGON – Myanmar, formerly Burma, may best be described a line from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” in which the king exclaims, “It’s a puzzlement.”
In a recent article, we related the story of a Christian pastor in a small village in the Chin state in northwest Myanmar. The gist of the story is that, although Christians in the state typically do not encounter physical persecution, they are often treated as outsiders, not because of their heritage, but because of their faith. This, despite the fact that tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya’s have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence perpetrated against them.
Today, Missions Box News has learned of recent outbreaks of persecution against Christians in Myanmar. How does this make sense?
The explanation is largely due to the geographic location of ethnic entities across the country’s 14 states and regions.
The Chin state is on the northwestern side of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh and the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur. The majority (85.4%) of the people in Chin are professing Christians, a lasting effect of the ministry of Adoniram Judson in the early 1800s. In fact, Chin is the only state in Myanmar that is predominantly Christian.
Kachin is the northernmost state in the country, bordered by India to the west and China to the east. The Shan state is Kachin’s immediate neighbor to the south. The people in these states are primarily Buddhists.
Wa is an officially unrecognized, independent state controlled by the communist-aligned United Wa State Army (UWSA). Nonetheless, it exists as a rebel entity in two sectors located along the Chinese border in the Kachin and Shan states. The Kachin and Shan states are two of the states in which the UWSA have been using their forces to persecute any people deemed to be aligned with their agenda. The Chin state, nearly 300 rugged miles away is relatively well protected from incursion by the UWSA.
The escalated levels of persecution are largely in the Kachin and Shan states. Reports claim that 12 churches have been destroyed or closed in recent weeks as the UWSA attempts to prevent Christian missionary activity. Christian schools have also been targeted. The UWSA destroyed the buildings because they claimed the buildings had been constructed without the army’s permission.
The Christian Post reported that more than 60 churches have been destroyed by the UWSA in the past 18 months. Twenty of those former church sites are now home to Buddist temples.
Christians – both men and women – in the Kachin and Shan states have been arrested and have had their heads shaven as an act of humiliation. Rapes and murders have also been reported.
One source has commented that “It has not yet gotten to the level of the Rohingya, but there is concern that it could real easy.”
A recent statement from the UWSA may be a portent of things to come. The September 9th order instructed “all military officers and administrators to ‘find out what the missionaries are doing and what are their intentions.” The statement promises to punish any local officials who support the construction of new churches.
Pray for the people in Myanmar, both for those who are sharing the Gospel and for those who need to hear it. Pray for their protection. Pray for GFA partners working in the country.
- Christian Post, 12 Churches Destroyed, Shut Down by Myanmar Rebels
- Cultural Atlas, Myanmar (Burmese) Culture
- Morningstar News, Rebel Force Attacks Churches in Burma