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Christian Freedom International (12/05/05) – Saw Stephen, 34, an ethnic Karen, has been trying to serve as a pastor in the Karenni State of Burma since 1996. But like many Christians in Burma , Pastor Stephen faces persecution from the Burmese military junta, known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

“My first church, Shadow Baptist Church , which I pastured, had over 250 people, but the military government [of Burma ] came and destroyed it. This happened in April 1999. The military burned down the houses of the people and came with axes and sticks and destroyed the church,” Pastor Stephen told Christian Freedom International.

“They captured me and took me to their military office. They put me under house arrest for four months in a small room. I could not contact my family,” said Pastor Stephen.

“After release from there I was reassigned to another church, Law Da Lay Baptist Church in Karenni State ,” said Stephen. “We had over 120 families; more than 600 villagers attended the church. Most villagers were Christians.”

“On November 5, 2003, the military government came in to the village and ordered us to move. They said ‘if you do not move within one week you are our enemies.’ They didn’t explain why we have to move,” said Stephen. “The soldiers destroyed our church.”

Stephen told Christian Freedom International, “So now nobody stay in the village, everyone moved away. Most moved into the jungle. Then we came to the refugee camps in Thailand .”

According to Stephen, “The government [of Burma ] will not allow us to rebuild the churches. They will not allow us to build any church in Burma .”

Stephen now lives life on the run: “So now I cannot stay very long in one area. So I go from place to place. It is not safe for me.”

“The Burmese government is anti-Christian,” said Stephen. “They are afraid that Christianity will bring in the Western ways to Burma . It will ruin the Burmese culture they say. They see Christianity as a Western religion. It is the main religion of the West, they say, which is why they hate it and are afraid of it. We have been told by the junta leaders that the people of Burma have to be careful about Christians; the Western policies can come in and overtake us, they say.”

Stephen told Christian Freedom International that starvation is rampant in Burma : “The people are starving in Burma . I see so many children starving to death. There are so many children dying; they have nothing to eat. They have no food. No one can change Burma . It must be God that changes Burma . Please pray for Burma .”