Burma

Leader: President Thein Sein
Population: 49.5 million (4.6 million Christians)
Main Religion: Buddhism
Government: Unitary constitutional republic
World Watch List Rank: 23
Source of Persecution: Religious militancy

Despite Burma's recent transition to democracy, its government is still nominally Communist and will do anything to keep control of its people. Being Burmese is synonymous with being Buddhist, and anyone who deviates from this heritage is viewed as a potential threat. Christians face pressure from extremist Buddhist movements and from the government, which tacitly supports them. Churches are monitored, and sometimes closed. Christians are often caught in the crossfire between different ethnic groups and the army - dozens of Christians have been killed, and church buildings and homes destroyed.

Please Pray:

  • Registering a church is almost impossible. Pray for wisdom and perseverance for church leaders
  • For pastors and church workers receiving livelihood grants and skills training through Open Doors
  • For children from Christian families, who face constant disadvantages in education.

Persecution dynamics

Over the past three years, Burma has frequently hit international headlines. The release of freedom icon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in November 2010 has been perceived worldwide as a positive sign that the country is moving towards democracy. In addition, many - but not all - political prisoners have been released and the new President, Thein Sein, introduced modest democratic reforms.

However, the situation for Christians has by and large remained unaffected by this political transition. The government is still nominally Communist, and Buddhism is used as the main tool by the Communist regime to unite the nation, which has several strong ethnic minority groups.

Many commodities such as ores and timber can be found in predominantly Christian territories, and inhabitants face strong pressure from the army, not only because the government wants to keep the nation united, but also because of economic interests. Companies are often run by military or high-ranking politicians, where nepotism rules. There is no desire to share the country's wealth with its people.

Muslim minorities also face strong opposition from Buddhist groups, especially in the state of Rohingya. What is less known is that the small group of Muslim-background believers not only faces persecution because of their Rohingya background, but also experiences enormous pressure from their Muslim families and communities.

Open Doors in Action

The role of Open Doors is:

  • to provide livelihood grants and skills training to believers
  • to offer seminars to help prepare the church for persecution
  • to raise prayer and awareness for persecuted Christians.