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05/04/2012 Burma (Compass Direct News) – Amid global euphoria over reforms in Burman-majority parts of Burma, life has changed little for more than 3 million Christians and other minorities left to suffer from one of the world’s longest running civil wars.

Headlines around the world hailed the induction on Wednesday (May 2) of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament as the beginning of a new era in Burma, officially known as Myanmar. But for the 150,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP) living in eastern Karen state’s 4,000 IDP camps, life is still about landmine blasts, gun and mortar attacks, and the possibility of a final war between armed insurgents and the Burma army.

Burmese President Thein Sein, a former military general, has introduced political reforms – the release of hundreds of political prisoners, new laws allowing labor unions and strikes and a gradual easing of media restrictions – and has reportedly ordered troops to stop offensive in ethnic areas, but senior military officials have not heeded his orders.

As part of its reform initiatives, the Burmese government is trying to ink ceasefire agreements with armed ethnic groups, including the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Karen rebels, however, believe the talks are a government strategy to buy time and prepare for a showdown.

Most of Burma’s Christians are from the ethnic minority groups of Karen, Karenni, Kachin and Chin and are predominantly Baptist. It is estimated that roughly 1.4 million Karens and Karenni, 1.1 million Chins and 900,000 Kachins are Christian.

While it is largely a struggle for self-determination in all ethnic states and all civilians suffer in the crossfire, the Burman-Buddhist dominated Burmese troops are often accused of being harsher on Christian civilians than on their Buddhist counterparts.

Ler, who was guarding a base on a hill about 30 minutes from an IDP camp, said military personnel target civilians because they are seen as the strength of the KNU.

“And Christians are targeted simply because their [government troops’] religion is Buddhist,” he said.

Ler said he had seen pictures of burned churches and received reports of such incidents.

Moo, the KNLA commando, agreed that Christian civilians were attacked more than Buddhist civilians. He cited a 2007 incident in Pekey Der village in Papu District under the KNLA Brigade 5 area, where troops burned down a church and “defecated on the Bible.” Moo said he learned of the incident from the church pastor.

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