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Crux reports on the suffering church in Myanmar

People leaving at the end of Mass at a Catholic church at Htaykho village in the Kayah state, Myanmar, in 2015. (Credit: Reuters.)

In recent years, organisations of Buddhist radical monks, such as one called “Ma Ba Tha”, have increased their campaigns against religious minorities and successfully helped introduce four laws for the “Protection of Race and Religion,” building almost insurmountable hurdles to conversions and religiously mixed marriages, the Crux reported on 7 Feb 2017.

Christians in Myanmar often suffer a double whammy. First, because they tend to be concentrated among ethnic minorities, especially the Kachin, they’re targeted for racial reasons. Second, because Christians are often (mis)identified with the West, they’re also seen by radical Buddhist groups as the cultural and political “other.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently issued a report on Christian persecution in Myanmar, concluding that Christians face discrimination in employment, forced conversions, violence and desecration of churches and Christian communities.

“Senior leaders in Burma’s government need to publicly acknowledge and remedy the fact that the elevation of Buddhism as the de facto state religion and resulting policies and practices have violated the rights of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities,” the report concluded.

More than 60 Christian churches have been destroyed in Myanmar’s Kachin state, where the country’s Christian population is concentrated, since a long-standing cease-fire broke down in 2011, according to the British-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Thousands of civilians, many of them Christian, have fled into China, prompting the Chinese authorities at one stage to deploy its military along the border, leaving 2,000 people trapped and 10,000 more to take refuge in Manhai, Myanmar, a border town, according to aid workers.

Christians in Myanmar, in other words, are suffering and sometimes dying in basic anonymity, and short-term forecasts suggest things are likely to get worse before they get better.

The nation of 56.9 million is 88% Buddhist, 6% Christian, and 4% Muslim.

It’s a fact that a suffering church is getting its teeth kicked in along with other minorities, such as the embattled Rohingya Muslims, and they need help. – Crux

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