Myanmar targeting religious institutions

The news goes around that Myanmar’s military is torching and occupying churches and killing and detaining pastors in its latest brutal offensive in the majority-Christian Chin state on the northwest border with India.

From the 17th to the late 19th century the Chin, a group of tribes of Mongol origin, have had a long sequence of tribal wars and feuds. They occupy the southernmost part of the mountain ranges separating Myanmar (Burma) from India. The youths in that region created the Chinland Defence Force (CDF), made up of the protesters that once stood up peacefully to authorities in the demonstrations a followed the coup that removed Aung San Suu Kyi from power. They were soon forced to flee into the jungle.

In Myanmar civilians have been facing not only a wave of deadly military violence but cuts to food, clean water and power supplies, prompting a mass exodus to dire makeshift camps in the jungle.

Normally people could find a safe haven in churches. That is why the junta goes against them.

Myanmar’s army – already linked to alleged crimes against humanity during its crackdown on the Rohingya community in Rakhine State in 2017 – has now intensified its bombardment on minority areas, including Chin State.

“The military in Myanmar have pursued an extreme Burman Buddhist nationalist agenda for decades, which has led them to particularly persecute ethnic and religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims,”

said Benedict Rogers, senior analyst for East Asia at Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The military conducts clearing operations in Chin, which has a 90 per cent Christian population.

Anna Roberts, from Burma Campaign UK says:

“The situation in North-Western Burma today has some echoes of the situation in Rakhine State in 2017 before the military offensive against the Rohingya,”

Though not only Christians are targetted. The military’s brutal ethnic cleansing operation in that state prompted a mass exodus of the Muslim minority into Bangladesh, many of whom still languish in huge refugee camps with no hope of returning home safely.

Myanmar's military have reportedly bombed the town of Thantlang in Chin State
Myanmar’s military have reportedly bombed the town of Thantlang in Chin State Credit: Twitter

According to the August-September report of the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), at least seven churches across five of Chin’s townships were damaged or destroyed due to deliberate shelling and small arms fire by soldiers, although some have cited higher figures.

Cung Biak Hum, 31, a pastor and young father, being gunned down, stunned the Christian community. An other young pastor was also shot and killed, while two others were arrested and detained and are feared tortured under army custody. A church in Mindat Township was occupied by troops who ripped up Bibles and threw them on the floor.

Earlier this month, troops stormed Rialti village, near the state’s capital of Hakha, after the anti-junta Chin Defence Force militia had reportedly attacked a military convoy in nearby Falam township.  There a Baptist church, where villagers had worshipped for some 50 years, has been put on fire.

“The burning of churches and the burning of homes were not the result of fighting but deliberate arson. This is really an insult. They do not care about our religion,”

said Rev. Dr. Law Ha Lin, general secretary of the Chin Baptist Convention.

The CHRO reports the conflict in Chin has already prompted 30-35,000 people to flee to Mizoram State in neighbouring India, as well as internally displacing about 20,000 people in Mindat Township, central Chin, who now live in desperate conditions lacking food and medical care. 

Up to 10,000 people have deserted Thantlang, leaving a handful of frightened households in the ruins.

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Preceding

Myanmar imposing population control on Muslim minority

Violence against the Rohingya community

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Find also to read

  1. Groundswells of democratic aspirations and developments in Asia
  2. 2014 Human Rights
  3. 2015 Human rights
  4. Helping people fleeing Myanmar
  5. No Longer ‘Hidden Victims,’ Children Are Dying as Virus Surges in Indonesia

Published by Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".

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