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Myanmar Rebels Detain Over 90 Christian Leaders, Shut Down Over 50 Churches

Christians make up about six percent of the population of Myanmar. The overwhelming majority of these are Protestants, with Roman Catholics comprising most of the rest; there is, however, a small community of Armenian Orthodox Christians, and 13th century inscriptions in Greek indicate that there may have once been a Greek Orthodox presence there. The Christians of Myanmar today are being harassed and persecuted by the United Wa State Army, a rebel group that holds power in Myanmar’s Wa state. The United Wa State Army has called for all churches in its domains that have been built after 1989 to be destroyed. 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 Rebels Detain Over 90 Christian Leaders, Shut Down Over 50 Churches,” by Samuel Smith, Christian Post, October 2, 2018:

Dozens of Christian churches have been shut down in Eastern Myanmar in recent weeks while as many 92 Christian leaders have been detained by a rebel faction, according to the Lahu Baptist Convention.

The convention, based in the Eastern Shan state, released a statement last week condemning the actions taken by the United Wa State Army, the military wing of the de-facto ruling party of the Wa state and Myanmar’s largest ethnic rebel group.

According The Irrawaddy, a news website run by Burmese exiles living in Thailand, the convention stated in its Sept. 25 statement that at least 52 churches in the Mong Pauk Township have been closed and stripped of all Christian symbols by the UWSA. At least three churches were completely demolished.

The convention explained that the rebel faction, whose sovereignty is not officially recognized by the Myanmar military but has helped the military in its battles in the Shan state, detained the 92 Christian leaders as well as about 40 Wa students in territory it controls in the Shan state….

According to Radio Free Asia, the USWA distributed a six-point statement on Sept. 6 that, among other things, states that churches, missionaries, teachers, and clergy in its territory should be investigated. The statement also called for a list of all churches in Wa-controlled areas to be created.

Additionally, the statement demands that churches built after 1989 to be destroyed, and forbids new churches in USWA territory from being built. The statement also requires that all religious leaders be local residents of the Wa region and must have permission from the Wa government to do religious activities.

Morning Star News, a nonprofit news outlet dedicated to covering Christian persecution worldwide, reports that UWSA released another statement on Sept. 13 saying that all churches built after 1992 would be destroyed or shut down because they were built without permission of UWSA’s leaders.

According to Morning Star News, the UWSA declared on a UWSA-run television program that it arrested the religious leaders for violating laws that prevent foreigners from serving as religious leaders. UWSA also accused the Christian leaders of forcibly converting some ethnic people to Christianity.

UWSA spokesman Nyi Rang told The Irrawaddy that the religious leaders were detained because there were some “extremists” among the group.

One local Christian leader based in Keng Tung told Morning Star News that “Wa officials instructed Christians in Mong Pauk not even to worship at home these days.”

“So some Christian members dare not to live in Mong Pauk any longer,” the leader said. “They came to stay in Keng Tung town as they are fearful.”…

The convention’s statement last week follows reports that the USWA destroyed or closed down at least 12 churches and some Christian schools on Sept. 20.

Ah Kar, a Mong Maw town resident, had previously explained that while many people were arrested briefly for worshiping, some had their heads shaved by authorities before being released. Women were among those who had their heads shaved.

Myanmar ranks as the 24th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List….

Bob Roberts, an evangelical Texas pastor who visited the Kachin state this year, told The Christian Post that as many as 60 churches in Kachin have been destroyed or bombed in the last 18 months. About 20 of those churches were said to have been turned into Buddhist pagodas.

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