Burma: the resilience of the Christian faith

By December 20, 2016

Burma (MNN) — Last week, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released two special reports on persecution in Burma. The first report, Hidden Plight, details the religious freedom violations faced by the Christian ethnic minorities: the Kachin, the Naga, and the Chin. There are other Christian minorities like the Karen who also face various forms of persecution.

At a Karen refugee camp (Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders).

At a Karen refugee camp. (Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

Burma (Myanmar) is 23rd on Open Doors World Watch List for Christian persecution. Open Doors says much of it stems from the Buddhist radical monks organization called Ma Ba Tha as well as more violent manifestations of persecution through the Burmese Army.

For the 16th year, Burma has also been listed as a Country of Particular Concern when it comes to religious freedom violations.

And though the persecution is manifested through religious avenues, Dyann Romeijn of Vision Beyond Borders says it’s largely based on ethnic divisions.

“Even if they were a Buddhist and they were part of either the Kachin or the Karen ethnic group, even if they were animists or Buddhists, they would still be persecuted by their government,” she says.

The report details a variety of ways these groups have become targets.

First of all, they face discrimination when it comes to education and government jobs and representation. They also have a hard time gathering for worship. Additionally, a set of laws passed last year has threatened to moniter religious conversions.

Christian ethnic minorities also face outright hatred and violence. It gets a little complicated because each group has their own brand of persecution. Romeijn says currently the worst-off are probably the Kachin.

A Kachin refugee camp (Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

A Kachin refugee camp. (Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

As the report explains, fighting in the Kachin state in 2011 between the Burmese Army and ethnic armed groups displaced thousands of Kachin. They’ve been living in IDP and refugee camps ever since, unable to return home.

In Kachin areas where fighting still exists, Christians are scared to gather. They might be accused of associating with armed groups. There are many reports of Christians and civilians being arrested, interrogated, and tortured under this accusation. Sometimes the action even escalated to sexual crimes and extrajudicial killings.

Resilient in faith

Despite the challenges facing the Kachin and Karen and other Christian minority groups, they aren’t giving up.

“I believe their faith is very strong and it really shines as an example in the country,” Romeijn says.

Vision Beyond Borders takes teams to camps where Christians have fled from violence. One time they visited a camp where 126 orphans were living. Most of them did not have a living adult relative. But their morale was shocking.

“Many of them had actually seen their parents killed by the Burmese army,” Romeijn says, “And these same kids were actually praying for the soldiers that persecute them. So they really truly have a vibrant faith, a real faith that’s not a faith of convenience, but a faith that’s real and tried and true and just a testimony of the forgiving and healing power of Jesus.”

The Karen at a refugee camp in Thailand. (Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

The Karen at a refugee camp in Thailand. (Photo courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

In fact, she says, they were some of the happiest and content children she’s ever met.

Similar to our prayer request for the Rohingya last week, will you pray for the Burmese government, military, and nation to see these ethno-religious minorities as people? Ask God to bring healing to Burma through his Gospel.

If you’d like to support the work Vision Beyond Borders is doing, click here.

One Comment

  • Stephen Ross says:

    I am a BridgeBuilder Volunteer with OpenDoors US. My role is to bring awareness to the Church and Action (Funding, Intercession, Letters, and Petitions)..I have expanded at the Lord’s leading to cover Persecuted Minorities. So my question, is how can i best partner with you?

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