As the military coup in Myanmar continues to cause devastation and disruption, Open Doors has joined 25 other religious freedom organisations in condemning the unlawful seizure of power and expressing concern over the oppression of the country's Christians and other religious minorities.
Soldiers patrolling a street, searching for protestors
Open Doors and 25 other organisations belonging to the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) have released a statement expressing their concerns about the notable increase in religious freedom violations since the military coup in Myanmar on 1 February.
“We are troubled that military control has the potential to exacerbate religious persecution and intolerance, as we continue to hear of rising Buddhist nationalism and attacks on houses of worship,” read the statement, released on 7 June.
Since the military seized power, alleging that the National League of Democracy’s (NLD) landslide election victory in November 2020 was fraudulent, thousands of civilians have taken to the streets in protest. In a ruthless military clampdown, at least 860 people have been killed and over 4,800 arrested. The RLP calls the coup ‘illegal’, saying it ‘disrespects the expressed will of the peoples of Myanmar’.
Churches have been raided because of activities the military considers unlawful, including the sheltering of anti-coup activists. Pastors have been forced into hiding having shown opposition to the coup.
"For those that are unable to escape, every day is lived in tremendous fear" Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP)
Meanwhile, the ongoing bloody clamp-down has left ethnic religious minorities even more vulnerable. Thousands have fled their homes. “For those that are unable to escape, every day is lived in tremendous fear,” the RLP said. “No fewer than 100,000 people – including from the primarily Christian Kachin and Karenni, many Christians among the Karen, as well as the Shan and others – are residing in camps for internally displaced people.”
“For decades, the military regime has weaponised religion, religious nationalism and religious identity, persecuting ethnic and religious minorities in similar ways,” the coalition said.
Muslim and Christian minorities and Buddhists opposing the regime, it said, ‘are suffering at the hands of a regime which is cracking down on any perceived threat to their power, including religious communities and religious leaders’.
“At Open Doors we are deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar and we condemn the extensive use of force and violence of the military against its own people and the total disregard of their inalienable rights,” said an advocacy spokesperson.
“The military aerial raids in Karen, Kachin, Shan and Chin states, justified as a response to militia attacking military posts, are disproportionate as well as indiscriminate considering the victims are mostly civilians," the spokesperson said.
The organisations called on all faith communities to stay united and oppose the violent actions by the military. It also urged the military to stop its violent crackdown on civilians, and release all political prisoners.
Furthermore, it appealed to the international community to recognise Myanmar's national unity government (NUG), most of whose members are in hiding or in exile, and to enforce a global arms embargo and impose further sanctions against the military and military-owned enterprises in Myanmar.
Christians in Myanmar are fearful for their safety and the future. Your prayers have been an enormous support to believers, making a tangible difference to their lives and reminding them that they are not alone.
"Because of your prayers, I find peace in difficult times" Min Naing*
“Our life has been full of fear, anxiety and distress since the military coup,” shares Brother Hermon*. “Amid the terrorising coup, we have experienced God’s presence in our personal lives. Me and my family would like to say
‘Thank you’ for your prayer support. Now we can see His tender care and mercy.”
“Pray for me and all the believers to be strong amidst all the unrest in the country,” shares Min Naing*. “And pray for the displaced people because of the civil war. Keep praying for those who are struggling to provide food for their families because they lost their jobs. Thank you for praying for Myanmar. Because of your prayers, I find peace in difficult times. And I felt that God was protecting me.”
The RLP concluded its statement with a call to prayer. “Finally, we encourage the global church to continue to pray for Myanmar,” it said. “We pray for a new dawn for Myanmar, a new and genuine federal democracy, respect for human rights for all, and a path of real justice, true and lasting peace and lasting reconciliation.”
*name changed for security reasons
Find out more about what it's like to be a Christian in Myanmar, and other countries where Christians face persecution. Your free World Watch List Top 50 booklet features testimonies from the persecued church and articles on the key trends to emerge from the latest report.
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