6/20/07 RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife)– Christian rights workers warned Wednesday, June 20, that the military government in Burma is preparing a major assault on individual believers, missionary workers and church leaders by compiling a list of Christians in the country and threatening a publisher with years of imprisonment.
Release International, a major advocacy and aid group, said it has learned from local Christians in Burma , also known as Myanmar , that the Burmese military is “pulling together details of children’s homes, assemblies, pastors, leaders, church members and even Christian families.”
The “junta has declared that to be Burmese is to be Buddhist” and “concern is growing about what the government will do with the list it is compiling of Christians in the country,” the roup said.
The developments came shortly after a Christian publisher was reportedly warned by authorities to “stop publishing” or face 12 years imprisonment. “They tried to stop me to publish any Christian book,” said the man on condition that his real name will not be released. The publisher, who claimed he was already three times detained before, said however that he would continue “publishing whatever we can, because we need to work for the Lord.”
He reportedly said he was not “afraid of any sentence or any action” as “God will take care of me.” The publisher claimed that Buddhists love to read John’s Gospel of the Bible, but added that Bibles are in short supply as part of the authorities’ attempts to “drive out every religion from Burma” except Buddhism.
Reports of persecution of Burmese Christians came after hundreds of protestors demanded the release of pro-democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent her fifth consecutive birthday under house arrest this week.
Suu Kyi, who turned 62, on Tuesday, June 19, has spent more than 11 of the last 17 years in detention, mostly under house arrest, as the government considers the slender lady “a threat to public order.” Her detention was extended last month for one more year.
The military took power in 1988 after crushing vast pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar , then known as Burma . When Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a general election by a landslide on May 27, 1990, junta leaders refused to hand over power, insisting the country first needed a new constitution.
American First Lady, Laura Bush, told The Wall Street Journal newspaper this week that Suu Kyi’s name is “synonymous with courage the world over” and expressed hope she can celebrate her next birthday in freedom. “Her only well-wishers are armed guards who hide her from the rest of the world,” she was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
However Burmese officials have denied reports of persecution and human rights abuses and have warned Asia against “American propaganda” and the allegedly growing influence of the United States in Asia .