Myanmar

Despite hopes that Myanmar's new government would bring increased religious freedoms, attempts to build trust between the Burmese army, insurgents and minority groups, including Christians, have so far met with little success.

Myanmar

World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
28 62/100
Leader Population
President Thein Sein 54,836,000 (4,369,000 Christians)
Main Religion Government
Buddhism Unitary constitutional republic
Source of Persecution Persecution Level
Religious nationalism High Persecution

Buddhism is weaved into Myanmar's culture, and conversion to Christianity is seen as a betrayal of the family, community - even the country. Churches are monitored and church leaders targeted by radical Buddhists in order to paralyse the church. Local communities put extreme pressure on believers from Buddhist and Muslim backgrounds to reconvert.

PERSECUTION IN MYANMAR

"The Muslims in the village still wanted to kill me. One day, they came to do just that. They attacked me but some believers shielded me from harm. Another night, Muslims surrounded my home while I was sleeping and pelted stones on our roof."

Amod is on the run. He's from the Rohingya (Muslim) tribe and converted to Christianity after 33 years as a Muslim. Christians from the Rohingya tribe are doubly disadvantaged. The country refuses to acknowledge Rohingyas, saying they are Bengali immigrants. Bangladesh, on the other hand, says they're indigenous to Myanmar. In addition, the Rohingya tribe rejects Christians who've converted from Islam.

Amod applied for permission to create a church for Rohingya believers, but was refused. After that he was hounded so much that he eventually took his family to Bangladesh - but life was no easier there. So, with seven Christian Rohingya households they fled to India, where they continued to be pursued from town to town. Amod maintains his witness and pastors the families who are now scattered. His vision is to see 500,000 Rohingyas come to Christ before he dies.

The majority of Myanmar's people are of Burmese or 'Bama' ethnicity - which equates with being Buddhist - and the outgoing government has used this sense of heritage to unite and 'protect the nation'. As a result, religious nationalist movements in Myanmar are growing and even fuelled by politicians, rather than curbed. For instance, the movement of radical Buddhist monks called '969', which the outgoing government tacitly supported. Laws for the protection of religion and race were adopted in August 2015 due in part to demands by the '969'. These aim to restrict interfaith marriages, limit conversions, ban polygamy and introduce birth control - and were supported with more than one million signatures from citizens across the country.Most Christians come from an ethnic minority background and are targeted because of this. Many face attacks by the army as it fights against independence or autonomy movements. All kinds of Christians are closely monitored in Myanmar - even Christians coming from a Burmese (Bama) background are watched, pressured and labelled as traitors.

Though free and fair elections give a ray of hope for Christians, the army's policy of placing pressure on Christians is unlikely to cease in the near future, especially as the army increased its attacks on minorities despite the recent election period. The army in Myanmar holds one quarter of government seats without contest and will do everything to stay in power, including calling on Buddhist nationalism and tribal heritage, if needed.

HOW WE HELP

Through local partners and churches, Open Doors strengthens persecuted believers in Myanmar through:

  • Literature distribution
  • Discipleship programmes
  • Pastoral and leadership training
  • Livelihood support.

PRAYER POINTS FOR MYANMAR

  • That persecuted Christian minorities would lovingly minister to other persecuted minorities, like the Rohingya Muslims
  • That Christian converts from Islam or Buddhism would have the courage to endure pressure from their families, friends and neighbours to recant their faith
  • For Open Doors partners supporting believers through literature distribution, discipleship programmes, pastoral and leadership training, and livelihood support.
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