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Myanmar: Missing pastors confirmed detained by Burmese army
26 January 2017
Myanmar's army have confirmed that they have arrested two Baptist pastors, who have been missing since 24 December.
Nawng Latt, 65, and Gam Seng, 35, have been accused of acting as 'financial-supporter, informer, recruiter, [and] rumour-mongering' for ethnic armed groups by the Myanmar Ministry of Defence.
These accusations have been strongly rejected by the Kachin Baptist Convention, who claim that the Pastors, 'only helped the wounded. They did not support the [ethnic armed groups].'
Myanmar's constitution, states that no person can be detained for more than 24 hours without charge except 'on precautionary measures taken for the security of the Union or prevalence of law and order, peace and tranquility'.
According to the statement, the 'two arrestees could not be detained under investigation by opening files of lawsuits' as there were ongoing military clashes in Mong Ko, and there was no functioning police force in the town at that time.
Despite multiple requests for information from the Government, the pair's whereabouts remained unknown for nearly a month and the family only found out from a military statement.
Increased Buddhist radicalism
The area where Nawng Latt and Gam Seng disappeared - Mong Ko, a town in the northern Shan State - has been wracked by conflict between Myanmar's Army and ethnic minority rebels in recent years.
There have been many documented cases of sexual assault by Myanmar troops in Kachin since the Myanmar Army broke a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army in June 2011.
Myanmar is number 28 on the World Watch List of the 50 countries in the world where Christians face most persecution.The conflict is 'intensifying' according to analysts from the Open Doors World Watch Research.
This is also a time of increasing Buddhist radicalism in Myanmar. Buddhism is weaved into Myanmar's culture, and conversion to Christianity is seen as a betrayal of the family, community - even the country. Churches are monitored and church leaders targeted by radical Buddhists in order to paralyse the church. Local communities put extreme pressure on believers from Buddhist and Muslim backgrounds to reconvert.
Growing Christian population
Despite this, Myanmar's Christian population has increased dramatically. A recent census showed that Christians now make up 6.2 per cent of the population - more than three million people - compared to 4.9 per cent the last time a full census was conducted in 1983. But the rise in Christianity is often sen as a threat to Myanmar's Buddhist identity. Almost 88 per cent of the population identifying as Buddhists, so it remains the dominant religion.
Half of Myanmar's three million Christians live in the states of Shan, Kachin and Chin. More than 85 per cent say they are Christian in Chin, which is the only state that doesn't have a Buddhist majority. Christians in Kachin account for 34 per cent of the population.
Kachin is a regional hotbed of persecution. Despite hopes that Myanmar's new government would bring increased religious freedoms, attempts to build trust between the Burmese army, insurgents and minority groups, including Christians, have so far met with little success.
Source: The Irawaddy; World Watch Monitor; Open Doors
- That persecuted Christian minorities would be strengthened and protected
- For the two detained Pastors and their families, that they would be treated justly and fairly
- For Open Doors partners who are supporting believers through literature distribution, discipleship programmes, pastoral and leadership training, and livelihood support.
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