Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

By Mark S.

07/10/2023 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) — Since the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar (commonly known as Burma), the number of the nation’s Christian churches that have met with destruction has reached well into the hundreds.

At the same time, the Burmese military (known as the Tatmadaw) has also destroyed and looted many Buddhist temples, even though Buddhism has long been the nation’s main religion.

The Burmese military “basically will crush anyone, Buddhist included, who stand against them,” said David Eubank, Director of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), which provides educational, medical, and spiritual assistance to internally displaced people in several embattled countries, including Burma.

“And they particularly don’t like Christians and Muslims,” Eubank added.

As of July 2022, International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that 66 churches had been destroyed in just one Burmese state, which also saw pastors arrested and executed.

On a national level, Eubank doesn’t know how many churches have been destroyed since 2021. Amid all the chaos, it’s likely that nobody has a precise count at this point.

Eubank said that, since 2021, just in Karin (Kayin) State alone, “over 100 churches have been heavily damaged or destroyed” by military mortars, gun strikes, or occupation.

Some sections of the country, such as Kayah State, are very possibly more than 50 percent Christian. And in Chin State, most residents are Christians.

It is difficult to accurately assess how many Christians there are, especially on a nationwide level. “We’re not really sure of the real numbers. Dictators have been doing the census for years,” said Eubank. “Minimally 6 percent of people in Burma are Christian. But it really could be 16 percent.”

Most Christians in Burma are ethnic minorities. Eubank puts the number at about 90 percent. Among the majority Burmese ethnic group (known as the “Bamar” or the “Burman”), Christianity is “pretty rare, but it’s growing,” he said.

Since Myanmar obtained independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, much of the country has been plagued by a series of insurgencies and internecine warfare between the central government and (heavily Christian) ethnic minorities seeking to resist the central government’s influence.

Though the Burmese military had been targeting churches and generally making a mockery of human rights for decades, their violations after the coup became far more brazen and ambitious.

Eubank related that, since the coup, the military has become so pronounced in its anti-Christian targeting that even Christian venues high up in the mountains can face a direct air strike.

The military, said Eubank, has “a belief that they can pay for their sins by building pagodas and monuments. A lot of those go up, especially after big attacks.”

Before the coup, those who opposed the military were mainly people from minority ethnic groups in mountainous border states.

“But since the coup, people from all over the country have risen up,” said Eubank.

“And this is a huge threat to the regime,” he pointed out. “Because now they [the military] realize most of the country is against them. They are doing everything they can to crush the opposition. This includes attacking Christians and their churches.”

Most Christians in Burma are Protestant. But from what Eubank can discern, the military dislikes Protestants and Catholics equally and wants them to “completely submit to the Burmese government in every form and fashion.” If they were to convert to Buddhism, that “would be an added thing the regime would like,” he said. “But most of all, they just want complete submission.”

Eubank noted that most people who support the military rule have a personal connection to the military, either through family or business. “Most people who aren’t family or business are against the regime.”

Eubank acknowledged that the military has a “stranglehold over parts of the country.” He added, “They are coming with a speed and force I have not seen in 30 years, using jet fighters, being supported by Russian, Chinese, North Korean, and Iranian military weapons systems.

Accepting these deadly gifts from their benefactors, the Burmese military then turns them on their own civilians. “Whether it’s jet fighters, attack helicopters, multiple launch rocket systems, heavy artillery, mortars, they’re just raining death on the people,” said Eubank.

Despite all their weaponry and nefarious support, Eubank contends that the military’s “grip is getting weaker.” As their actions grow more appalling, the opposition to them becomes stronger.

“There’s a new unity that cuts across social, religious, economic, tribal and racial lines,” said Eubank. “Burma’s saying, ‘Enough! We want change.’”

Part of this ‘change’ includes religious change: Eubank said that people are converting to Christianity. In fact, he and his fellow Free Burma Rangers baptized more than 300 people in Burma last year.

“I see a new awakening … in the midst of this evil conflict,” he said.

The military coup and its ensuing violence have killed over 6,000 people and displaced over three million. “Almost everywhere you go, people are displaced,” said Eubank. “But they’re not giving up … God’s Spirit is there. And I believe change is slowly coming to Burma.”