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Myanmar: Christians targeted in “surprise violent attacks” by the military

Christians make up about 8.2 percent of the population of Myanmar. Most of these Christians are Protestants, with Roman Catholics comprising most of the rest; there is, however, a small community of Christians who belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, which broke communion with Holy Orthodoxy after the fourth ecumenical council, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, over its definition of the two natures of Christ, divine and human. Also, 13th century inscriptions in Greek have been discovered in Myanmar, indicating that there may have once been a Greek Orthodox presence there.

All the Christians of Myanmar today are being harassed and persecuted by the Myanmar government. Please pray for a relaxation of this persecution, for the strengthening of Myanmar’s Christian community, and for a new introduction of Holy Orthodoxy into this beautiful and suffering nation.

“Myanmar Persecutes Christians, Too,” by Hollie McKay, Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2018:

The international community has rightly called out the horrific ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine state. But the Buddhist-dominated Burmese military has systematically attacked other religious minorities too, including Christians. After a recent lull in the mayhem, the country’s Christians now fear more violence and persecution.

“The Burma Army has already moved in hundreds of troops, dozens of heavy weapon systems and multiple mechanized vehicles in what appears to be in preparation for an imminent onslaught against the Karen people,” Ephraim Mattos, East Asia operations manager at the Nazerene Fund, told me. The four million Christians in Myanmar—previously known as Burma—make up about 8.2% of the mostly Buddhist population. They largely reside in the country’s peripheries and belong to ethnic minority groups such as the Karen, Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Lahu and Naga.

The brutality against Kachin people has been especially gruesome. Some 130,000 Kachin, more than 90% of whom are Christian, have been displaced within their state over the past six months. “There has been the destruction of our churches, the desecration of our sanctuaries, the looting of our offerings, and violence including rape inside church property,” lamented Gum San Nsang, president of the U.S.-based Kachin Alliance. The monsoon season stopped the violence for several months, but its looming end has caused alarm.

“The largest military campaigns occur after monsoon season. Especially during or around Christmas,” Mr. Nsang added. “Christians are now in fear of surprise violent attacks, including the arbitrary firing of artilleries at displacement camps and other civilian areas by the Burma forces. Prayers are served as our consoling mechanism.”…

Christians in Myanmar claim to be targeted in less violent ways too, and they fear this subtler persecution will worsen. Many say history textbooks are being rewritten to favor Buddhists, Christian teachers are being removed from public schools, and minority languages are forbidden along with the study of Christianity and minority cultures.

Many Christians also bemoan bans against worshiping in churches—or even in their homes. “The government has not legally allowed the construction of churches for at least 30 years. We are limited from promotions in public office,” Mr. Nsang said. “This is to make us believe we are second-class citizens.”…

A representative for the Myanmar Embassy in Washington responded to a request for comment by insisting that the country, having experienced nearly seven decades of internal conflicts, prioritizes “national reconciliation and receiving peace.” The spokesperson added: “The civilian government is working arduously to reach a ceasefire and political agreement with various armed groups. The Government is ready to address issues related to human rights violations in all parts of the country that come up with concrete evidence.”

Hau Do Suan, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, also emphasized that the government is trying to minimize that the threat posed by around 20 armed rebel outfits intent on fighting Burmese troops. According to Mr. Suan, such rebel factions have committed violence “and terrorism” against Burmese civilians. He dismissed any notion that Christians or other religious minorities are persecuted….

Photo by calflier001 – YANGON MYANMAR JAN 2013Uploaded by MainFrame, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28882714

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