|Christian children from the Karen minority worship at a refugee camp|
The release of Aung San Suu Kyi and her winning a parliamentary seat in April 2012 have created some optimism about Burma’s future. But little has changed for Burma’s Christians. The military has continued to pursue its agenda of intimidation and violence against ethnic minority groups, the majority of whom are Christians.
They face targeted and severe abuse for both their ethnicity and their faith. In ethnic minority regions the Burmese military has continued to intimidate and harass pastors and other Christian workers, disrupt worship services and destroy churches. Christian women are also abducted, raped and used for sex trafficking. A grandmother from a predominantly Christian minority was gang-raped and tortured for three days in May 2012 as she took shelter in a church when troops invaded her village.
In June 2011 the military broke a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). More than 75,000 Kachin people, many of whom are Christian, have been displaced as soldiers attack villages, raze houses and torture the people. The military also decreed in 2012 that Christian groups in Kachin state have to get permission 15 days in advance for activities such as “reading the Bible, fasting, prayer…”It is feared that if the conflict continues Kachin Christians will have no choice but to flee to China.
The Burmese army actively promotes conversion to Buddhism. Christians are sometimes forced to help build and maintain Buddhist pagodas and monasteries or to destroy church buildings. In impoverished areas Christian children are enticed to join government-run schools, where they are prevented from practising their faith and beaten for failing to recite Buddhist scriptures.