White House Welcomes Burmese President Despite Persecution Reports | Persecution

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White House Welcomes Burmese President Despite Persecution Reports

Details of Horrific Treatment of Christians Continue to Emerge

5/23/2013 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Burmese President Thein Sein was warmly welcomed by President Barack Obama to the White House on Monday even as reports of ‘severe’ human rights abuses, including persecution of Christian ethnic groups, continue to emerge. The historic visit was the first in almost fifty years by a national Burmese leader and came as a result of major political reforms made by President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian administration to a government dominated for more than five decades by a military junta.

President Thein Sein’s White House visit came only a week after human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) issued a 25-page report detailing ongoing repression of various Burmese ethnic groups, including the predominantly Christian Kachin. CSW noted that testimony from displaced Kachin Christians in Burma included “some of the worst accounts of human rights violations” the organization had ever documented.

In the report, the wife of one current Kachin Christian told CSW of seeing her husband after he had been tortured. “He was covered in blood, and his nose was broken…An iron bar was rubbed along his legs. He was forced to engage in homosexual sex …He was told that as he was a Christian, he should kneel on very sharp stones with his arms outstretched like Christ on the cross…He was beaten on his hands and arms.”

As many as 100,000 Kachin currently live in refugee camps in the mountainous north of Burma after being displaced by Burmese military attacks. The Burmese military, which is dominated by Buddhist soldiers, has been known to discriminate harshly against the Kachin for their Christian beliefs. According to the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand at least 66 churches have been burned down in Kachin State since June of 2011.

The Burma army came into our village; without warning, they burned and destroyed our village. Since we are all Christians, our church was immediately burned down and we lost all the Bibles we had in there as well. None of us can or dare to go back to our village, it is surrounded by the Burmese Army and we heard that many land mines were placed around our village” one Kachin Christian told an ICC affiliate last month.

Ryan Morgan, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said “While we applaud the many political reforms being instituted in Burma by Thein Sein’s government since 2010 and understand the desire of the current U.S. administration to encourage further reform, we believe Monday’s White House visit was a step too far. Horrific accounts of torture and discrimination against the Kachin by the Burmese military under Thein Sein’s government continue to emerge. Churches are being burned to the ground while prisoners are mocked and tortured for their religious beliefs. Only very strong, concrete steps will be able to counter the institutionalized discrimination that grips most of the Burmese military and much of Burmese society. The United States should not continue to reward the Burmese government with diplomatic favors until these steps have been taken.”  

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