A landmark election in November 2015 resulted in a victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). Many hope the new government will bring greater freedom, but the future is unclear and the effect on Christians unknown. Several hundred thousand ethnic Burmese Christians were excluded from voting due to ongoing security problems in various parts of the country.
Most of Burma’s Christians are members of non- Burman ethnic minorities, such as Kachin, Karen and Chin. They have endured persistent discrimination and persecution from the authorities, both for their ethnicity and their Christian faith. Many Kachin live in camps for displaced people, and have lived in fear ofkidnap, rape, torture, forced labour and killings. It is not clear whether this will end under the new government.
The previous government approved four new Race and Religion Protection laws in 2015, curbing conversions to other religions, marriages between Buddhist women and men of other religions, and childbirth rates by region. These laws are primarily targeted at ethnic Rohingya Muslims, who are also persecuted. However, some affect Christians too.
Burmese authorities under the previous government raided Christian meetings and Christian villages, forced Christians to remove crosses, controlled the publication of Christian materials, and prevented believers from building or repairing places of worship. A religious conversion law approved last August requires that anyone wishing to change religion must obtain official approval.
Alongside persecution of the religious minorities, the previous Burmese authorities actively promoted conversion to Buddhism. Children from poor Christian families in some remote areas were offered free food and education in special schools known as NaTa La are not allowed to practise Christianity and must shave their heads according to Buddhist teachings. These schools had often promised the children government jobs when they graduate. Pray that the new government will bring an end to the targeted persecution of Christians in Burma.
Pray that Burmese authorities will see Christian minorities as vulnerable and in need of special protection and care. Ask God to bring comfort and hope to the many displaced believers who live in refugee camps. Pray also for restoration in the lives of those who have been personally harmed, displaced from their homes, or lost loved ones in the army’s brutal treatment toward Christians.