Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - “The situation is horrific” – one year on from the military coup in Myanmar - Open Doors UK & Ireland
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04 February 2022

“The situation is horrific” – one year on from the military coup in Myanmar

This week marks a year since the military coup in Myanmar. The impact on the country, including its Christians, has been catastrophic. Believers have been killed, pastors arrested and churches attacked. Twelve months on from the military’s seizure of power, what’s the latest, how is Open Doors helping Christians, and how can we pray?


Church in Myanmar

Open Doors local partners pray over emergency aid that will be distributed to Christians in Myanmar

On Christmas Eve last year, around 30 people were brutally killed in Kayah State, Myanmar, after the vehicles they were travelling in were stopped by the military. At least 15 of those who lost their lives that day were young and displaced Christians who had just finished making preparations for Christmas. 

Earlier in December, two pastors were killed by the military, and another was murdered in September. According to Open Doors local partners in Myanmar, more than 25 Christians were killed by the military in 2021. 

“The situation is horrific and life is getting more and more grim for the people in Myanmar,” shares Daisy*, one of the partners. “The believers – in fact all civilians in Myanmar – are living in fear. The believers are traumatised by what has been happening, and they are also struggling hard for their survival. Christians are targeted everywhere in the country, more so in the areas where they live in majority.”

"The believers – in fact all civilians in Myanmar – are living in fear" 'Daisy'

Church leaders are frequently the target of arrest and kidnap, while raids and attacks on churches are common. In June 2021, three pastors were arrested for holding prayers for peace. In November, the military raided the house of a bishop and a clinic run by the church and arrested 18 people who worked there. Local partners are aware of at least 34 churches bombed by the Junta. There are fears the one-year anniversary of the military seizing power will prompt further violence.

The devastating impact of the coup on life for Christians in Myanmar is reflected in the latest World Watch List. The country is number 12 – a rise of six places on last year. 

The coup has also had a devastating impact on the economy. “Many believers are depending on the generosity of the church,” says Daisy. “However, the church itself is suffering as the tithes and offerings have drastically decreased, and some churches now cannot pay salaries to their pastors and mission workers.” The country has also been ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic. More than 150 pastors have died from the virus.

Why are Christians being targeted?

Myanmar’s Christian-majority states, such as Chin, Kachin and Karen, are where the country’s long-running civil war between the military and armed ethnic groups is concentrated, even before the military coup. 

But since last February, fighting has intensified and, in many cases, the resistance groups are supported by Christians – and increasingly so given worsening conditions and people’s desire to protect themselves from military brutality. This means all believers are viewed with suspicion – including the many who do not advocate violence. 

There are other reasons, too. Many believers and churches joined the nationwide protests that engulfed the nation last year, making them a target for the military. This includes pastors who felt obliged to rally against the military, as well as civilians who left their jobs to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Sometimes churches are simply caught in the crossfire – like one church that was attacked because it’s where protestors sought refuge from the military.  

Another factor that may increasingly come into play stems from the notion that ‘to be a Burmese is to be Buddhist’. General Min Aung Hlaing, the military leader, sees enforcement of this as a way to placate the country’s Buddhist majority. 

“The civil war could be a good opportunity to uproot the Christians from their lives,” shares Brother Lwin*. “The economy is ruined. These are subtle moves, shrouded by the violence of the civil war, which create a path for Buddhistisation of the Christians in Myanmar.”

“There are still people out there who care for us”

The number of Christians forcibly displaced because of the coup is estimated to be around one million. Last year, Open Doors local partners provided food, medical and other vital aid to more than 10,000 believers. 

“Since many of these families had fled in haste they were unable to bring their clothes, blankets and utensils along with them,” shares Michael, another partner. “There are so many children among them. I am so happy that these blankets and warm clothes have brought some comfort to them. They have lost their houses and daily lives; this is the least we can do for them.”

"“It’s a joy to be able to reach out to these believers and see them happy after all they have gone through" 'Michael'

Several families were moved to tears on receiving the help. “We thought everybody had forgotten us,” said one recipient. “But these blankets and warm clothes have reminded us that there are still people out there who care for us, pray for us and work to support us.”

In one place, a shelter has been built by Open Doors partners for believers to stay and use as a classroom to teach the children, who greet the provision of books and pens, as well as winter clothes, with tremendous excitement. “It’s a joy to be able to reach out to these believers and see them happy after all they have gone through,” Michael adds. “I always thank God for this opportunity.”

“We know we are always wrongfully suspected of supporting the insurgency groups, and the risks are great,” Michael continues. “However, we also know that this task of helping the persecuted body of Christ is always worth any kind of danger we can encounter.”

Local partners also run seminars to help Christians respond to persecution. “When we spend time in prayer, it is easy to pray for our nation. But when I ask the believers to pray for the military, they cannot; they find it difficult to pray for them,” says Jack*, one of the trainers. “When we studied ‘Knowing the Enemy’ lessons, they began to understand that the military itself is not evil, but it’s the devil that is turning them to do evil, the believers began to understand, and could start praying for the military.”

The situation in Myanmar seems grim, however Christians continue to hope in the Lord – helped by your prayers and support. “The believers have become very vulnerable, this is true,” says Daisy. “However, we also have faith that God is capable of restoring to us double of all the blessings we have lost.”

*Names changed for security reasons


Please pray
  • For the protection of believers and local partners, and provision of all physical, spiritual and emotional needs
  • That believers will be equipped and empowered to respond in a biblical way to persecution
  • That fighting in the country will ease, and that God will use His church as agents of peace and reconciliation. 
Please give
 

You can give to support Christians facing persecution in the World Watch List top 10 countries.

  • Every £52 could provide trauma care for two victims of violent persecution
  • Every £56 could support a persecuted Christian with urgent aid

 

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