Myanmar Military Targets Christians in Kachin Crackdown

Farrukh Saif

May 29, 2024

Myanmar Military Targets Christians in Kachin Crackdown

Tensions are high in Myanmar’s Kachin state as the military junta intensifies its crackdown on Christians suspected of aiding rebel forces. On Thursday, May 24th, dozens of Christian leaders, pastors, and youth were detained by soldiers during raids across several towns and villages.

The arrests occurred in areas like Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital, where Myanmar’s military has been battling the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for decades in a conflict rooted in the ethnic group’s demands for greater autonomy.

“They took me from my home in the middle of the night without any explanation,” said Pastor Bawi Roi, one of those detained. “The soldiers accused me of supporting the KIA rebels, which is completely false. I am a man of God, not a fighter.”

Targeting a Christian Minority:

Christians, who make up around 34% of Kachin’s population, have found themselves increasingly targeted since the military coup in 2021 that ousted the democratically elected government. The junta sees the Christian minority as a threat due to its perceived support for pro-democracy movements.

“This is religious persecution, plain and simple,” stated Zau Seng, director of the Kachin Human Rights Group. “The military is using the conflict as an excuse to harass and intimidate Christians who dare to speak out against their injustices.”

Among those detained was Rev. Hkalam Samson, former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention and a prominent human rights advocate. Just hours after being released from prison under an amnesty, he was re-arrested at his home on Wednesday night.

Caught in the Crossfire:

The crackdown comes amid escalating violence in Kachin state as the military deploys thousands more troops and launches airstrikes against KIA rebels deeply embedded in the region’s rugged terrain. Civilians are increasingly caught in the crossfire.

“We’re seeing entire villages burned, churches destroyed, and widespread displacement,” said Moon Nay Li, coordinator of the Kachin Women’s Association. “The military shows no regard for the laws of war or the rights of our people.”

Human rights groups have documented numerous abuses by both sides, including the KIA’s alleged use of civilian infrastructure like churches and schools for military purposes.

As the conflict rages on, Myanmar’s Christian minority finds itself squeezed between the military’s heavy-handed tactics and the rebel forces’ desperate struggle for autonomy and survival.

“All we want is to be left in peace to practice our faith,” said Pastor Roi. “Instead, we are being persecuted for our beliefs and caught in the middle of a war we never wanted.”

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Farrukh Saif

Farrukh H. Saif, a courageous Christian human rights activist, established the Farrukh Saif Foundation in 2009 to confront religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, and bonded slavery in Pakistan. His dedication to liberating bonded laborers from brick kilns and advocating for blasphemy victims and asylum seekers has garnered international acclaim. Despite encountering threats and fatwas, his impactful work persists in supporting marginalized communities. In 2018, the foundation merged with The Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved, enhancing its global outreach.

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