This week is Current Events week on the blog, and we learning about the awful civil war in Myanmar. While the war has dragged on for a seemingly endless seven decades, it has erupted violently in 2021 after a military coup in February. (If you haven’t read the previous posts in this week’s series on Myanmar, start here.) In today’s post, we look at one facet of the war: persecution against Christians. Here are a couple recent examples of what has been happening.
International Christian Concern reported on October 19, 2021, that “in the midst of intense fighting between the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) and the local defense groups in Christian-majority Chin state, another church was vandalized by the Tatmadaw. According to Chindwin News, on October 16, the junta has destroyed a Baptist church and other residential properties in New Thlanrawn village in Falam Township, Chin State. On the same day, the military junta also burned down other 13 houses in the village. Villagers said that the Tatmadaw destroyed the Thlan Rawn Baptist Church after they failed to burn it down due to the rain. Currently, all residents in the area have fled their village running into the jungle to hide as it is no longer safe for them to stay where they are. Thousands have sought refuge in neighboring Mizoram, which is also a Christian-majority state in India.”
Two days later on October 21, International Christian Concern reported that “Military authorities in Myanmar arrested seven humanitarians working for Caritas, a confederation of Catholic relief organizations. The workers were reportedly transporting food and medicine and were apprehended in Loikaw, the capital of Myanmar’s southeastern Kayah State on October 18. Kayah State has a disproportionately high Christian population—though Christians make up only 6.2% of the population countrywide, they are over 45% of Kayah’s population. This has made them a particular target of the Tatmadaw, which aggressively persecutes religious and ethnic minority communities.”
Then on November 2, International Christian Concern reported that “A Catholic priest in Myanmar’s Shan state was forced to kneel at gunpoint and threatened by the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) as he was traveling between towns. According to the Chindwin news, the 46-year-old priest was traveling within Nguang Shwe Region, South Shan State on October 30. He and his companion were stopped at a checkpoint around 3 pm. The junta soldiers then accused him of supporting People’s Defense Force (PDF) soldiers and threatened him by saying, “A bullet is all it takes to kill you.” “The car was stopped, unloaded and all the passengers’ bags were inspected by the junta soldiers. After that, the priest was blindly accused of collecting funds for PDF and supporting them by buying medicines and guns,” one of the passengers told Mizzima News. “He was then told that a bullet will be all it takes to shoot him dead if he is seen traveling one more time again,” he added. In addition, Tatmadaw soldiers also accused the priest of planning to use a bag of fertilizer for making an explosive device, when in fact he intends to use it for his garden. As the coup continues, tension rises between the Tatmadaw and Christian leaders, especially those of ethnic minorities. A Chin pastor was recently killed for putting out a fire for his congregant, while many other pastors have been detained and their whereabouts still unknown. More than 160 buildings in a town in northwestern Myanmar, including at least two churches, have been destroyed by fires caused by shelling by government troops, local media and activists reported Saturday.”
Lastly, the Associated Press reported November 3 that “The destruction of parts of the town of Thantlang in Chin state appeared to be another escalation in the ongoing struggle between Myanmar’s military-installed government and forces opposed to it. The army seized power in February from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, but has failed to quell the widespread resistance. The Chin state is a heavily Christian area in the otherwise majority-Buddhist country. Over 90 percent of the ethnic Chin people identify as Christian, many of them Baptists after the history of Baptist missionaries in the region.”
As we learned in previous posts, this kind if traumatic upheaval has led to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Burmese people to flee Myanmar, many becoming refugees.
Those of us, like myself, who live in places like the United States of America, might talk about how we Christians are being persecuted in America or other nations with freedom of religion. But we do not know persecution like what is happening Myanmar and many other places. Check back in to the final post in this series. I’ll attempt to provide suggestions for a Christian response to the situation in Myanmar.