CHARITIES working on behalf of the persecuted Church have condemned the recent military coup in Myanmar, and said that it could worsen the situation for the nation’s Christian minority.
The army seized power on Monday, declaring a year-long state of emergency. They detained Aung San Suu Kyi, who led Myanmar’s elected government, and closed down TV channels, the internet, and banks.
The sudden putsch ended an 11-year uneasy transition towards democracy, which began in 2010 after decades of repressive military rule.
It appears to have been prompted by the defeat of the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in elections in November (News, 20 November 2020); the new session of parliament, in which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party has a majority, was just about to open.
“In the last half-century, the military junta has been systematically persecuting Christians,” the communications director for Asia with Open Doors, Jan Vermeer, said.
Open Doors’ local partner, Brother Lwin (not his real name), said: “Military rule could mean reinforced power for the dominant religion. The military government of the past has always been protective of their Buddhist culture and tradition. This may have serious implications to the Church.
“We are expecting restrictions upon the Church to happen once again, though we are unsure of the extent and the form it will take as of yet.”
There are particularly large populations of Christians among the ethnic-minority Kachin, Karen, and Shan groups. The military and local Burmese insurgent groups have been persecuting them for decades, and some observers fear an intensifying of Myanmar’s campaigns against its non-Burmese minorities after the coup.
A senior analyst on Asia at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Benedict Rogers, said that the events of the past few days were “a desperate step backwards for Burma”.
The World Council of Churches and Christian Conference of Asia have written a letter to Myanmar’s churches, assuring them of their prayers and urging a swift return to “the path of democracy”.