Christians’ Participation Against Military Coup in Myanmar
By ICC’s Myanmar Correspondent
03/16/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – As violence and brutal crackdown against the anti-coup protestors are making international news headlines, Christians in other parts of the world might wonder how the Christian minority in Myanmar has been dealing with the recent military coup.
Long treated as second-class citizens, we tease ourselves for carrying the “C(hristian) virus.” Those who practice Christian faith are inferior in terms of getting hired or receiving promotion in government. Our identity has been used as a part of their systematic division and power games. Those in power have certain language used to categorize the faith communities: “Buddhist” or “Others”, without mentioning “Christian.” As a result, Christians traditionally avoided and advised each other not to participate in social movements, for we would end up being the grass between two bulls’ fight.
But the recent political uprising in the country has shown that this line of thinking does not work anymore. In fact, Christians with a history of being oppressed became key players of this political movement. In Myanmar, Kachin and Chin ethnic groups both have over 90 percent of Christians. Karen ethnic group has a large population, with more than half of them being Christians. Both Karen and Kachin peoples have very strong ethnic armed groups, and the whole nation is putting hopes in them to jointly fight against the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army). The country appreciated it when Chin Christians in Chin and other states were on their knees praying for Myanmar. They look up to Chin politician Salai Maung Taing San, known honorifically as Dr Sasa, who now serves as the Special Envoy of Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to the United Nations. He became a leader and a strong political figure for the movement against the military coup.
In addition, in the early stage of the uprising, Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC) has published a strong statement against military coup on February 5th, saying that they stand with the people of Myanmar and demand the release of the de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. Again on February 12th, MBC issued another statement showing its support for the Civil Disobedient Movement (CDM), which is the core of the current movement. Because of their attitude, many churches have opened their doors for the workers who joined CDM, supporting them with the resources they have. Pastors were being challenged by their congregation to come out and join the movement on the streets and they did. MBC even organized youths to march for demonstration, but police and soldiers came to restraint the group. They still managed to gather in the MBC compound and conducted worship service while putting out their political demands.
The suppression of demonstrators has escalated since February 18, and their brutality is on the rise. Each day, around 500 young protesters are arrested. The Tatmadaw has been facing prison allocation issues as they have been detaining people arbitrarily 24/7. Many of our Christian youth have been detained, yet many more are out on the streets risking their lives every day. Most of their parents let them out because they could not stop them. They know too well how living under military control was a nightmare in the past.
When ICC talked to a mother whose daughter has been detained in one of the most notorious prisons for all the political prisoners, Insein prison, she said, “I have been praying and putting everything in God’s hand. I cannot eat properly and sleep only briefly. I am looking forward to seeing my daughter again. I have to restrain my son from going out for demonstration. I do not know what to say to them as they have no fear at all. Me and my husband have to watch him all day to make sure he stays home. I could not lose them both.
Protesters from Insein Township in Yangon, where many Christians live and many Christian youths are spearheading the actions said to ICC, “Soon we will burn out our energy, spirit, and mind, due to us being beaten, breathing this gas, resisting these stun grenades, running and hiding from these heartless souls (police and soldiers) day after day and not knowing when their snipers will shoot our heads. Today we lost our savings that we intended to buy defense equipment, as one of our friends who oversees the finance was arrested right in front of our eyes. I am sure these dogs (police and military) will take our money. We must continue, and we will, but we need encouragement, something that could lift our spirit and ignite us again.”
There is a case which ICC is still investigating but cannot confirm yet— a Christian demonstrator who was shot on his thigh and arrested by the police died from not receiving medical attention. The police held the funeral without notifying his family.
Even though Christians in Myanmar have stayed low profile in the past and cannot foresee what the future holds, yet they are joining hand in hand in this movement against military coup, bearing and sharing the same yoke with their fellow citizens, praying, hoping and believing.
For interviews, contact Alison Garcia: email@example.com