Government violence against the Christian minority in Myanmar is intensifying, according to human right activists.
The prediction of Open Doors comes after Myanmar’s army shelled a town in the Christian-majority Chin State burning more than 160 homes and two churches to the ground in the town of Thantlang.
In their advances the Tatmadaw, the military, has ransacked, shelled, and occupied churches, killing one at least one cleric.
According to Chin Human Rights Organisation, a Christian pastor who had attempted to put out the fires was shot dead by the military, his ring finger was cut off and his wedding ring was taken.
“The situation is difficult to describe,” said a local source said. “Wherever the military goes, they burn the houses, kill the pigs, and occupy churches.
“The fighting is intense in Christian areas in Falam Township in Chin State, and Kachin State.
“It’s alarming because believers’ families there are forced to hide in the forest – migration in the Chin State is happening in droves and the towns have become completely empty. There is nowhere to hide but the jungle.”
She continued: “Transporting basic commodities like rice and medicine has become dangerous because the military has set up more check points on the roads to the conflict areas in Kachin State and Chin State.
“In Matupi in Southern Chin State the pandemic has affected the whole town. They don’t have access to basic medicine for fevers and colds with military control of the area.
“The civil war is likely to intensify as more military personnel are dispatched to Chin State. The situation for Christians in Chin state will become even more dire in the coming days.”
More than 18,300 people have been displaced the attacks on Chin State, according to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Churches are empty and deserted in Thantlang, Mindat and Kanpetlet in Chin State.
The state has been at the forefront of some of the strongest resistance to the Myanmar military junta following the coup of February 1.
Myanmar is number 18 on Open Doors World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.
Christians make up eight per cent of Myanmar’s population, according to Open Doors World Watch Research.
Human Rights Watch and the Burma Campaign UK are among more than 500 civil rights organisations who are calling on the UN Security Council to ‘act now to end the Myanmar junta’s campaign of terror’.
In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma more than 80 per cent of the 50 million population are Buddhists.
The majority of Christians are from ethnic minority groups like the Karen, Kachin and Chin people of the mountainous provinces.
Of the Christian minority, about 800,000 are Catholics. They make up the second largest group after the Baptists, who number about 1.5 million people.
During half a century of military rule, the Catholic Church was singled out for persecution, partly because it was an international body outside of the control of a deeply-paranoid junta.
Schools were closed, property confiscated, missionaries expelled and the activities of the clergy monitored by military intelligence.
In 2015 Pope Francis gave the red hat to Cardinal Maung Bo, an ethnic Burman and a Salesian priest.
(A displaced Christian family photographed in October 2021 who fled their home in Chin State for refuge in the jungle, courtesy of Open Doors)
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund