International Christian Concern (ICC) has released a new report, Caught in the Crossfire: Myanmar’s Christian Minorities Under Tatmadaw Rule. The report details the history, and future, of Christians in the Kachin, Chin, Rohingya, Karen, Indian, Chinese, and Karenni ethnic groups, as well as those in Wa State. It suggests several international policy stances with the potential to improve the situation of these groups going forward.
It has been four months since the Burmese military, or Tatmadaw, arrested the de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, in its February 1, 2021 coup. The military’s efforts to justify the takeover by claiming it was a response to fraud in last November’s elections did little to assuage the international community, which had monitored the elections and found little evidence to justify the military’s claims.
The current military junta promises to hold free and open elections in a year, but even if it keeps this promise—not a given, considering its disregard for last year’s free and open elections—there is no doubt that the coup represents a substantial blow to Myanmar’s prospects of a stable, self-sustaining democracy.
As hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets in February to oppose the coup, they were unsure what their country’s future would look like if Tatmadaw succeeded in its plot to rule the nation again. Among protesters, there are individuals from the country’s religious and ethnic minority groups who fear that the return of Tatmadaw will mean further targeting and crackdown, which could threaten their lives.
The military junta has responded to the protests with swift brutality but has, so far, been unable to quell the growing pro-democracy movement despite killing over 840 civilians and wounding or torturing even more. Reports have even emerged of the Tatmadaw attacking medical first responders and preventing ambulances from staging near protests.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “The chaos caused by the coup is not likely to cease for the next few months or even years. It is vital to understand the crisis faced by religious minorities in Myanmar and consider how we can assist as members of the international community and fellow Christians. We have already witnessed the targeting of churches and religious leaders in states such as Chin and Kayah by the Tatmadaw. As the resistance forces fight on, there could be tens of thousands more IDPs who direly need humanitarian aid and medical help. We should not stand idle.”
Pope Francis joined the call to help Myanmar, where violence has displaced thousands and many face starvation.
The Holy Father’s remarks came after praying the noonday Angelus on Sunday, June 20, 2021, with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Click here to download the full report.