The Myanmar military has destroyed dozens of churches in predominantly Christian states since the coup in February 2021.
It has been more than one year since Myanmar's military staged a coup and now, the group has destroyed at least 47 churches and more than a dozen affiliated buildings in its assault on the predominantly Christian states of Chin and Kayah. In Chin State alone, about 35 churches and 15 buildings associated with churches were destroyed. In Kayah State, 12 churches were destroyed, all of which occurred between February 2021 and January 2022.
The Irrawaddy cited the Chin Human Rights Organization and the Karenni Human Rights Group in its report that revealed how many churches have been destroyed in the Christian states. Christians are a majority in Chin State, which lies along the border of India. Meanwhile, Christians also make up a substantial part of the population of Kayah State, which lies along the border of Thailand.
The report added that Christians in Chin State and Kayah State live in conflict zones and are often ethnic minorities. Myanmar is where the world's longest Civil War has been going on, beginning in 1948 when the country was still known as Burma. The conflict is between the country's Tatmadaw or military and the ethnic minority militias, which escalated further after the military coup on February 1, 2021. The ethnic militias have been supporting pro-democracy protesters, sparking a bigger conflict.
Since late 2021, the Buddhist nationalist junta has attacked civilian areas in Chin State and Kayah State through airstrikes because of its strong resistance from the locals, the Christian Post reported. The junta targeted religious buildings in Christian areas specifically because civilians often take shelter in them when conflict escalates.
In late March, forces from Light Infantry Battalion 266 operating under Hakha-based Tactical Operations Command late looted and vandalized the Sang Fen Memorial Church in Zokhua Village in Hakha, Chin State's capital, as per CHRO. Moreover, on Christmas Eve 2021, the military burned alive at least 35 internally displaced people in Kayah State, including women, children, and the elderly. The bodies of the victims were discovered a day after the massacre near the Mo So village of Hpruso town.
"We were so shocked at seeing that all the dead bodies were different sizes, including children, women and old people," a Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) commander told Reuters at the time. KNDF is one of the largest of several civilian militias that oppose the junta. A local villager was also quoted as saying, "I went to see this morning. I saw dead bodies that had been burned, and also the clothes of children and women spread around."
"They are attacking the churches intentionally to suppress the spirit of Christian people by attacking their sacred churches. I condemn their bad intentions," the Irrawaddy quoted a Karenni Christian leader as reporting. The escalation of conflicts has displaced hundreds of thousands of Christians.
Myanmar is now considered by persecution watchdog OpenDoors USA as the 12th in the World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. Persecution in Myanmar is "very high" because of Buddhist nationalism. The country is also recognized by the U.S. State Department as a "country of particular concern" for its violations of religious liberty.