(Forum 18) – Widespread religious freedom violations by the Burmese government continue, with Christians from the ethnic Karen, Karenni, Chin and Kachin nationalities suffering particularly badly, Forum 18 News Service has found. It remains difficult to gather reliable information from inside Burma . Regime troops have pulled down the last remaining Christian cross on public display, and the regime has often forced Christian villagers to construct Buddhist pagodas in place of Christian crosses. Christians in the cities have more freedom than in rural areas and according to a Burmese church leader in Rangoon , “we cannot say we are persecuted for our faith – but there are a lot of restrictions”. Religious persecution continues to be closely tied to ethnic and political conflicts, and the military regime tightly controls state-permitted religious activity.