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Christians under scrutiny in Burma

by Cara Bentley

Shan State is near the Chinese border and the case indicates an increasing crackdown on Christians in the region by the United Wa State Army (UWSA). 

Two priests, three nuns and three lay teachers were expelled following an expulsion order on 12th October aimed at clergy who arrived in the region after 1992. Last month, another priest, five nuns and six teachers were expelled.

They are are part of a campaign of increased targeting of Christians by the UWSA since 13th September.

The UWSA announced that all churches built after 1992 were constructed illegally and will be destroyed and has forbidden the construction of new churches. Five churches have reportedly been destroyed and 52 shut down. 

Last week, reports emerged of approximately one hundred Christians who were released after being forced to sign pledges that they would only pray privately in their homes. Religious leaders in the region reported that 41 Bible students had been forcibly recruited into the UWSA.

Benedict Rogers, CSW's East Asia Team Leader, said: "The scale, suddenness and severity of this crackdown is profoundly concerning. We urge the international community to monitor this situation closely and consider what action could be taken to protest at this repression and protect the Christians in UWSA-controlled areas."

Rogers added: "The influence, at some level, of the Chinese authorities appears to be a factor driving this persecution, which is an alarming indication of the extension of China's influence and repression beyond its borders. Religious and ethnic minorities in Burma are already facing a rise in persecution at the hands of the Burma Army and a militant Buddhist nationalist movement, but this particular crackdown appears to be related more to China's influence, with economic, security and political interests at play.

"If Burma is to have any chance of peace and any hope of democracy, it must respect basic human rights for all its people of all religions and ethnicities, and protect freedom of religion or belief for all. Violations of freedom of religion or belief, whether by the Burma Army, militant Buddhist nationalists, ethnic armed groups or by China extending its repression beyond its borders are unacceptable and must be held accountable."

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