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10/08/2018 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – On October 5, a month after the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the ethnic armed group comprising the military wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP) started detaining Christian clergy members and shutting down several churches, 100 Wa Christians were freed, according to Radio Free Asia.

However, more than 100 Christians from the Lahu ethnic group in mountainous territory the rebel faction controls in Shan state continue to be detained.

Christians who were freed on Friday had to promise that they would pray only at home and not in churches by signing a document, said Rev. Dr. Lazarus, general secretary of the Lahu Baptist Convention (LBC). Seven priests who refused to do so are still being detained.

UWSA interrogated the clergy members about whether they were engaging in development work or proselytization, in order to get rid of “religious extremists” in Wa territory, including missionaries who have not obtained official permission and clergy members who operate outside the law.

LBC reports the ethnic army also detained 40 ethnic Wa students participating in Bible study classes in Mong Pauk township and has reportedly forced them to become recruits, while shutting down 52 Christian churches in the Mong Pauk region.

The self-declared Wa state not officially recognized by the Myanmar government has been controlled by UWSP for several decades. It is under increasing Chinese influence and adopts a very similar style of authoritarian government control. Critics believe that China’s recent crackdown on Christianity is catching on in Wa state.

For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]