Thousands of Christians flee to escape persecution
Tens of thousands of Christians have been forced to abandon their homes in Myanmar and take refuge in other countries to escape the long-running campaign of persecution. More than 100,000 Myanmar Christians are now refugees in Malaysia. “Myanmar isn’t safe for us. They killed people, sent people to jail because of religion,” a Christian refugee said.
There are an estimated 4.4 million Christians in Myanmar, out of a population of 54.8 million. In 2015, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Rangoon was appointed as the country’s first ever Cardinal.
Christians live in states along the country’s borders with China, Thailand and India and belong to ethnic and religious minorities that have been fighting for greater autonomy in the states where they live. The country has suffered decades of civil war between Burma’s Army and the ethnic nationalities, many of whom, especially among the Kachin, Chin, Karenni and Karen, are Christians.
They have been resisting the military’s efforts to assimilate them into the majority Burmese culture ever since the Southeast Asian nation achieved independence from British rule in 1948. Some of the ethnic minorities have formed their own armies to resist government troops who are known to attack even without provocation
Despite a ceasefire agreement during the election campaign period, the Myanmar military continued its attacks against ethnic minorities in Kachin and Shan State. Fighting has now escalated between ethnic rebel groups and government troops, forcing more Christians and other non-Buddhist minorities, such as the Rohingya, to flee. Reported actions of the Military include landmine explosions, rape of women, indiscriminate killing and forced displacement
Apart from attacks by government forces, Myanmar;s Christians also face persecution from radical Buddhist monks, who have helped introduce laws for the “protection of race and religion.” This poses serious obstacles for conversions and religiously mixed marriages.
Myanmar is classified as “High” risk among countries most hostile to Christians in Aid to the Church in Need’s “Religious Freedom in the World” Report 2016.