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04/19/2022 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Ever since the military coup on February 1, 2021, during which Myanmar’s democratically elected government was deposed by the military junta, religious minorities have found themselves in the midst of the violence. 

News source Radio Free Asia reported recently that nearly 100 religious buildings had been destroyed in two regions and two states in Myanmar more than a year after the military seized control and plunged the country into chaos and violence.  

The 97 buildings that have been destroyed include 76 Christian churches. In some cases, soldiers raided the religious buildings and beat locals who were sheltering there. Many churches in northwestern Myanmar were burned to the ground.  

Soldiers no longer honor religious buildings in the Buddhist-majority nation because they only want to ensure they maintain power, said a member of the People’s Defense Force (PDF), a grassroots group opposing the military regime. 

“They are a fascist, terrorist army,” he said. “They no longer venerate the religion. They don’t care about the well-being of the people. They don’t care about anything else. All they care about is upholding their power and increasing their wealth.” 

“They also prosecute and assault the people,” said the PDF member. “They will do the same thing to the sacred buildings of any religion. They won’t be reluctant to destroy anytime.” 

The majority Christian Chin state in Western Myanmar has had 62 religious structures destroyed — the largest number of such of any single state or region since the military takeover — including 22 that were burned to ashes and 20 more destroyed by artillery blasts, according to the Institute of Chin Affairs, a human rights organization. 

“We feel that this is the result of lacking respect for people with different religious beliefs,” the organization said in a March 22 statement. “Many of us have perceptions that they treated us this way because they disrespect people with different religious beliefs. Losing respect for other religions is not acceptable, and assaulting the believers of different religions is a violation of international laws.” 

Military commanders are supposed to avoid hitting religious buildings during armed conflicts, said a Christian religious leader in Loikaw, who requested anonymity for safety reasons. 

“During the armed conflicts in Kayah state, most of the bombs from air raids and artillery blasts fell inside the compound of the churches,” he told RFA. “That’s why many churches were destroyed.” 

“We don’t know why they did it,” he said. “We strongly condemn their actions. We want to appeal to them to avoid targeting religious buildings.” 

The military regime’s spokesman, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun denied that army forces targeted religious buildings during armed conflicts. 

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