Over 7,000 Kachin Christians forced to flee violence
The international media has given extensive coverage of Rohingya Muslims refugees who were forced to flee their villages in Burma for over a year. Yet little is heard about the plight of Burmese Christians from ethnic minorities, who have been subjected to persecution for decades.
In the past two months, over 7000 Christians belonging to the Kachin ethnic minority in northern Myanmar, have been forced to abandon their homes due to the escalation of violence between the Burmese army and the Kachin independentist rebels.
Bishop Francis Daw Tang, who heads the diocese of Myitkyina in the state of Kachin, stated:
“In early April, the Burmese army began to attack the region on the border with China. Many villages were attacked and the population started to flee. Many have been trapped in the jungle for at least three weeks, without food and without freedom to move, because they are suspected of being rebel collaborators”.
“The refugees have come to the parish of Tanghpre. At the moment there are 243 families in the parish territory, a total of 1,200 people. Another 600 displaced people have arrived in Palana, in a Baptist church complex, and other groups have found shelter in other churches,” he added.
Last week another 400 displaced civilians arrived in the capital of Kachin, Myitkyina, where there were already over 4,000 other refugees.
Political analyst Stella Naw commented on what is happening in the north of the country: “It is a war where civilians are systematically victims of the Burmese military, while the international community ignores this emergency.” She compares the crisis faced by Christians in the region to the one that affects the Rohingya Muslims.
“It is an invisible war”, said Than Htoi, a Christian who is a social worker in the state of Kachin. He refers to the Christian school complex, Kachin Baptist Mission School, that was destroyed by bombing on 11 May as an example of “military attacks against civilian targets”.
In his March report to the Human Rights Council, Yanghee Lee, UN envoy for human rights, called for an immediate end to the fighting, saying: “What we are seeing is unacceptable: innocent civilians are killed and injured and hundreds of families are fleeing to save their lives”.