Haunted by Decades-Long Conflict: Part 3

Christians in Myanmar Remain Hopeful for the Future

By ICC’s Myanmar Correspondent

This is a three-part series. To read part two, click here.

01/19/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Many parts of the Kachin State are haunted by the decades-long civil war. In these places, Majority-Christian Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have been living in terrible conditions and many struggling churches bear the responsibility to care for them. Christians in Myanmar are ready for change.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) party has won another 5-year term with a landslide victory, and Christians hope to see these changes finally come to fruition. The party has already demonstrated that it is willing to improve religious freedom (read part one), and it just may unite Myanmar’s more contentious regions.

One youth from Kachin State expressed his yearning expectations, sharing, “In Kachin State, many Christian organizations take a leading role in education and social developments. I would like to see our state government become more cooperative in these activities…Many of the IDPs are Christians, and when they returned home, most of the churches were destroyed.”

He continued, “When they are renovating their churches in their villages, I would love to see this government ensure their security and safety. In some villages, Tatmadaw (Burmese Army) has based their camps near churches or in the neighborhood. For that, I would like to see the government mediate for the villagers so that they would be able to conduct religious activities and see the relocation of Tatmadaw bases as well.”

In these locations, he believes that it is important for the returning Christians to obtain transitional justice and compensation for the loss of their homes and churches, and he would like to see the government make that happen.

Rakhine State is one of the richest states in natural resources and one of the country’s most beautiful travel destinations. However, Rakhine State has also seen vicious civil war and religious unrest. Conflicts have inflicted many parts of the states and now the state is experiencing the highest amount of COVID-19 cases after Yangon.

Many believe that the second wave of the epidemic came from the area bordering Bangladesh. Buthidaung is one such place in Myanmar. A pastor living alongside IDPs in Buthidaung and working so hard to put food on their table during the pandemic shared his expectation to ICC.

“I would like to see this government carefully listen to voices from the remote areas and villages like us. I really want them to monitor or carefully appoint the officers to these villages or quarter level administration, so they do their works properly. All we want is Christians in our area able to worship peacefully on Sunday without any fear. In Buthidaung, some Christian IDPs living in a monastery cannot go out and attend church on Sunday. I wished they could have come celebrate Christmas,” he said.

These expectations are from Christians who are from different parts of the country as they face various challenges. For them to bravely state their expectations is remarkable in itself, yet no one knows whether these expectations will be met by the NLD government or remain unheard in the next five years.

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