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ICC Note: Advocates in the U.S. are calling for the U.S. to impose sanctions again on Myanmar, given the atrocities committed by the tatmadaw (Burmese army) against the mostly Christian Kachin ethnic group. 406 villages and 311 churches have been burned and more than 130,000 people displaced in the past seven years.

07/11/2018 Myanmar (National Catholic Reporter) – The Tamadaw, the military of Myanmar, has been attacking the ethnic minority Kachin people in what some observers are calling a genocide.

Although much attention has been given to the ethnic Rohingya, “If you ask the Kachin if they believe a genocide is taking place, everyone will tell you yes,” said the Rev. Bob Roberts, senior pastor at Northwood Church in Dallas, who recently visited Myanmar.

In Kachin state, which is over 90 percent Baptist and about 5 percent Catholic, the Tamadaw has burned 406 villages and 311 churches and displaced more than 130,000 people in the past seven years.

“These are gut-wrenching acts,” said Nicolee Ambrose, spokeswoman for the Interfaith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma.

The motivation for the attacks is an ongoing conflict that started almost as soon as Burma, now Myanmar, gained its independence from Britain in 1948.

The government of Myanmar views the Kachin Independence Army, which Roberts described as “for the most part, a defensive organization,” as a terrorist group.

Despite this, the KIA, along with other ethnic armed groups, has been invited to a government-sponsored peace conference July 11-16.

Ambrose described a trip to a camp for internally displaced Kachin, where she met women and children who were victims of violence. Fifty-two percent of women who had survived attacks on villages had been raped, she said.

“It’s first an ethnic problem and second a religious problem,” said Roberts, although he said that religion did play a role in the attacks.

Since the vast majority of the Kachin are Christians, the Tamadaw goes out of its way to attack churches, said Sut Nau Ndayu, the president of the Kachin National Organization USA.

“Churches are the core of the community. When the military personnel come and destroy churches, they destroy the people’s hope and safety and shatter their mentality. That’s what they’re aiming for,” he said.

The Christians are easy targets because they tend to flee to churches, said Roberts.

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For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org