BURMA: RELIGIOUS CLEANSING SPREADS TO CHRISTIANS
RELEASE CALLS FOR HALT TO ATTACKS BY MYANMAR MILITARY.
The Burmese military has renewed its offensive against the Christian Kachin people in Myanmar (Burma), displacing thousands. Release International, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, fears Christians face a repeat of the brutal ethnic and religious cleansing against the Rohingya Muslims.
The military stepped up its campaign against the mainly Christian Kachin people in April, launching attacks by artillery, helicopter gunships and infantry. Troops have displaced thousands, driving them from their burning homes. The military have also occupied churches and interrogated entire congregations.
There are reports that the soldiers are using rape as a weapon of war and are deliberately targeting camps for the displaced, which is a war crime. They are also said to be sowing landmines to make villages uninhabitable.
‘The world cannot turn a blind eye to these brutal attacks against Burma’s minorities,’ says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International. ‘All the signs point to an expanding campaign of ruthless ethnic and religious cleansing. The military control Burma with an iron grip, and there are some who won’t rest until all of Burma is Buddhist – at any price. They’ve targeted the Muslims, now they’re going for the Christians.’
Conflict between the controlling Burman people and other peoples erupted after World War Two. Some Christian tribes, who sided with the British against the Japanese, expected a homeland of their own in return. Instead, they have faced 60 further years of conflict.
Stop-start fighting renewed in 2011 and redoubled in April this year. Even before that, the military targeted Kachin churches over Christmas.
Christians make up around nine per cent of the population and have long been targets for religious persecution in Burma. Buddhist monks have led violent attacks against churches and church leaders, house churches have been banned and there have been attempts to outlaw religious conversion. There have also been legal moves to enforce the notion that to be Burmese is to be Buddhist.
‘The brutality of the military became clear in their treatment of the Rohingya,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘What they are doing to the Christians is every bit as brutal – and they have been doing it for decades.
‘Release calls on Christians to pray for the Kachin, and on the international community to act to restrain the military in Myanmar.’
Release International is working with partners in Burma to support a children’s home and will be supporting families who have suffered direct attacks and injury from their communities. This could include helping them set up micro-businesses, such as providing pigs for farming projects.
Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.