Thousands of Chin Flee Religious Persecution in Myanmar, Resettle in Texas
ICC Note: Chin, the majority Christian ethnic minority group in Myanmar has suffered from religious persecution and racial discrimination for decades. Thousands of them have fled their country to seek life without human rights abuses. Today, they resettle in Lewisville ISD, Texas, free to practice their faith.
03/28/2018 Myanmar (Lewisville Texan Journal) – Nestled in Lewisville is a community of almost 4,000 people from the Chin State of Myanmar. Coming as refugees, this population has been persecuted and abused due to their race and religion. Today, this population represents one of the largest minority groups in the city and Chin is the third most spoken language in Lewisville ISD. While they have come for a better life, obtaining it has had its share of trials.
Persecution in Myanmar
These events for the Chin population date to 1948 when Myanmar, formerly Burma, broke away from the colonial rule of Great Britain. After 14 years, a military coup ensued and led to almost 50 years of rule by a military junta, according to BBC. Between 1962 and 2011, when they ruled, this regime was notorious for suppressing dissent from the public and committed human rights abuses against those not in the ethnic or religious majority.
Myanmar is a Buddhist majority nation. While constitutionally they allow religious freedom, there are exceptions that allow the suppression of minority religions. Missionaries came to the region roughly 100 years ago and converted the Chin from mostly Animism, a belief where all beings and objects have a spiritual essence, to Christianity. About 98 percent of them now practice Christianity according to Lewisville’s Chin Community Ministry.
Ministry director Becky Nelson said while Buddhism is normally perceived as a peaceful religion, Myanmar is home to one of a few Buddhist groups that practices violence to advance their beliefs. This has been done through banning the practices of other religions and forced conversion and violence.
“The Chin are definitely a persecuted people group,” Nelson said.
The persecution has come in the form of violent acts from the police and military, forced labor, unlawful detainment, torture and extrajudicial killings. They have also had their language banned, which has resulted in few books written in Chin and no recorded history. Another reason for leaving is an attempt to dodge the Burmese draft. It is common practice to lie about the age of your child so they cannot be drafted.
But Nelson said according to the Chin, this isn’t the worst of it. The military has been known to come to Chin villages and take the men away, using them to build roads, carry ammunition for soldiers, sweep for mines and put them on the front lines without weapons of internal military conflict that has been ongoing since 1948.
“If you ask the Chin, they could have put up with lack of religious freedom,” Nelson said. “They went underground and had underground churches. They were used to being poor, but what they couldn’t do is have their men be taken. They weren’t there to work the farms and then they’d come back maimed.”
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