“It’s hard to feel Burmese if you are not Buddhist here, and harder when the military government views your faith and your tribe as subversive,” said a persecuted Christian pastor among the Chin people. Christian persecution in Myanmar has been apparent among minorities; they have long been the victims of discrimination from the government and the culture. Since the military coup of 2021, violence against Christian minorities has spiked, especially as much of the country has revolted in protest.
The civil war has displaced two million people, and killed 30,000 so far, but Christians are caught in the crossfire. Over seventy churches have been firebombed in Chin state alone, with pastors killed and Christian villages even earmarked for bombing. The most high-profile Christian prisoner is the Rev. Hkalam Samson, who was accused merely of holding a prayer meeting with members of the opposition National Unity Government. For this “act of incitement” the former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention, and who had prayed in the Whitehouse for then President Trump, was sentenced to six years in prison in 2023.
Other Christians face multiple sources of persecution, such as Muslim Background Believers among the Muslim Rohingya. This Muslim minority has been pushed out of Rakhine state since 2017 by the army with terrible atrocities, forcing half a million to flee to Bangladesh. Christians among them also face persecution from the strongly Muslim culture as well. Few Christian groups are as internationally unnoticed and friendless as the Christians of Myanmar.
General Min Aung Hlaing
“We must hide in our own villages from the army, who consider Christians their enemies. The hills have not protected us like they used to, and we will have to flee our homelands in greater numbers or the slaughter will finish us.”
CHRISTIAN LEADER IN CHIN STATE
HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN MYANMAR
Christians are the people of the hills in Myanmar. The country consists of a central plain dominated by its overwhelmingly Buddhist population and surrounded by hills and mountains in which live the ethnic minorities.
It is these minority groups that are the most Christianized. Despite successive Catholic missions over six centuries, it was the Protestant missionaries that gained the most traction among the hill tribes. Most famously, American Baptist missionaries Adoniram and Ann Judson came in 1813 and saw a significant turning to Christ among the Karen people, who in turn shared their faith with the Kachin. Other missionaries reached the Chin people, who are half a million in number and 85% Christian.
Roughly two thirds of Myanmar’s Christians are Protestant, and predominantly Baptist. Roman Catholics form one sixth of the total. Christians have struggled for acceptance in this staunchly Buddhist country, in which nationalism has fused with the majority religion, and so Christians are viewed as less than patriotic as a result.
Unpopular military juntas, who ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 2011, and then took power again in a coup in February 2021, frequently try to appeal to the majority by repressing the Christian minorities and even trying to impose Buddhism on them by force. Some groups, such as the Karen, formed independence resistance movements decade ago, and Christians among them are doubly targeted by the authorities.