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Rangoon’s Christians banned from worshipping

ICC Note:

An order from Burma’s former capital of Rangoon prohibiting churches from holding services in residential apartments effectively bans Christian worship as only a very small number of churches are allowed to have their own land.

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1/7/09 Burma (Mizzima) Christians in Burma’s former capital of Rangoon find themselves in a precarious state as local authorities on Monday banned the holding of regular church services and threatened to seal off churches if congregations failed to comply.
The Kyauktada Township Peace and Development Council on Monday summoned a meeting of local church pastors from leading downtown Rangoon churches and informed them to stop the conduct of worship services in residential apartments.
“They [the authorities] warned us that our churches would be sealed off if we continue worshipping,” said a pastor of a church in Pabedan Township who attended the meeting.

“The papers also said that we could be punished [and could be jailed] if we fail to obey the order and the church would be sealed off,” the pastor said.

Since the late 1990s authorities have stopped issuing permits [to churches] to purchase land or construct church buildings,” the pastor said, adding that he himself bought an apartment in Pabedan Township for use as a place of communal worship.
According to church leaders including the pastor, there are at least 100 churches located in residential apartments in downtown Rangoon, including those in Kyuaktada, Lanmadaw, Latha, Pabedan, Bothathaung, Minglar Thaung Nyunt, Dagon, Tamwe, Hlaing, Kamayut, Ahlone, Sanchaung and Bahan Townships.
A Christian youth in Rangoon in an email message to Mizzima said the order virtually puts a stop to Christians worshiping, as most churches in Rangoon are convened in apartments.
“Eighty percent of the churches in Yangon [Rangoon] are included in the order. Only a few churches have their own land. Most churches use rented buildings, houses and office style rooms for worship places,” the youth explained.
“We need your prayers for Christian communities in Myanmar [Burma],” the youth added.