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Myanmar: Silent Christmas for Christians

There is a small number of members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which severed communion with the Holy Mother Church of Constantinople in 451, in Myanmar. Here the BBC presents a fascinating look into their community.

Christians make up about 8.2 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.

For more ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Myanmar, see here.

“Silent Christmas for Christians in war-torn Myanmar,” UCA News, December 15, 2022:

A Christmas of darkness, silence and fear awaits thousands of Christians in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Myanmar, where carols, decorations and illuminations are banned because of ongoing conflicts.

The sounds of gunfire, fighter jets and artillery shelling have replaced those of carols and celebrations in predominantly Christian Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin states.

Away from home-sweet-home, thousands of Christians have been forced to take refuge in churches, makeshift camps and in forests following military attacks against civilians.

For *Josephine Pho Mu, 42, this is the second time she has had to flee her home in Kayah state since 1988.

“I thought we would be temporarily displaced and go back home. But we have been away from home and sheltering at this camp for 19 months,” says Pho Mu who has taken refuge at a church-run camp in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, after leaving her village in Demodo township in May 2021.

The mother of three said this will be her second Christmas in the camp.

“It is a mix of joy and sorrow when Christmas approaches. We are joyful about welcoming Jesus Christ’s birthday but we are sorrowful as we are in the camp due to the conflict and don’t know when we will be able to return home,” Pho Mu told UCA News.

She said there is a program for children such as games before Christmas while adults will spend their time in spiritual preparation prior to Christmas.

“We will join a novena starting from Dec. 16 and attend Masses on Dec. 24 and 25,” Pho Mu said.

She said life in the camp is different from her home but she is not depressed and remains hopeful about her future.

“I have decided that I will not give up hope and will face the difficulties as I need to set a good example for my children,” she said.

At least 170,000 civilians in Kayah state — more than half of its population of 300,000 — have been forced to abandon their homes, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network.

At least nine Catholic churches have been hit by artillery shelling and air strikes by Myanmar’s military in Loikaw diocese, with 16 out of 38 parishes severely affected by the conflict which has intensified since the junta ousted Myanmar’s elected government in a coup on Feb. 1 last year.

Father Celso Ba Shwe, administrator of Loikaw diocese which covers Kayah state, said the elderly, the disabled, children and pregnant women in IDP camps are in dire need of humanitarian assistance while children and youths are facing difficulty continuing formal education.

“In the season of Christmas, may we have Christmas carols, peace and greetings with love after disappearing from gunfire, fighting and heavy weaponry,” the priest said in an Advent letter….

 

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