The military dictatorship in Burma wants “Christians to be wiped out” from the predominantly Buddhist nation.
The southeast Asian country also known as Myanmar is bordered by India, China and Thailand. Military rule has been in order since 1988. They annulled a 1990 election that would have brought the opposition into power and jailed the leader, a Nobel peace prize-winner.
Burma is a source country for men, women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and slave labor. It also is a destination country for many women trafficked from China for prostitution. The nation is the world’s second largest producer of opium. Needless to say, it has a horrible human rights record.
The country has a history of persecution toward minority religions and ethnic groups. While 89% of the population is Buddhist, somewhere between 4 to 6% is Christian.
Adoniram Judson, one of the first missionaries from America, was a missionary to Burma. He arrived there in 1813. After almost 40 years of work, he left a Bible translated in their language, 100 churches and over 8,000 Christians. Because of his work, Burma has the second highest number of Baptist worldwide, behind the US and India. Each July, Baptist churches in Burma celebrate Judson Day, commemorating his arrival as a missionary.
The Karen tribe, which makes up 7% of the population and lives in eastern Burma, has taken the brunt of the attacks having the largest percentage of Christians. An estimated 27,000 have been driven from their homes in the past year. Churches have been burned. Individuals are forced to convert to the state religion. Children of Christians are barred from school.
A recent UN security council resolution requiring the restoration of democracy to Burma was vetoed by China and Russia, who are both significant arms suppliers to the regime.
A document believed to be leaked from a government ministry opens with the line: “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practised.” The document also calls for the imprisonment of anyone evangelizing.
It also says, “The Christian religion is very gentle – identify and utilise its weakness.” That, along with their steadfastness during this difficult time, makes me proud to call the Burmese Christians “my brothers and sisters.”