Christians living in eastern Myanmar faced a deadly uptick in persecution earlier this month when the Pro-Chinese militant extremist group United Wa State Army (UWSA) attacked several churches along the border with China and kidnapped several ministers who claimed that the churches were built without permission from the organization.
According to AsiaNews, the UWSA released a statement of beliefs which told military personnel under their control to “find out what the [Christian] missionaries are doing and what are their (intentions.)” The statement also threatens public officials who support Christians.
A witness to the destruction told Morning Star News that at least a dozen churches have been destroyed or shut down by the UWSA.
“Not only churches in Panghsang city were shut down, but churches in Mong Maw town were also destroyed,” explained Ah Kar, who lives in the village. “Some religious leaders were arrested, and some people who worship were briefly arrested, and they were head-shaved before release. Some of those who were head-shaved were women.”
A spokesperson for the UWSA told a Yangon-based newspaper, “We are trying to control the instability in the region caused by extremist, unregistered religious leaders from outside.”
AsiaNews reports that the ethnic Wa community have been living in the area along the Chinese border for several centuries. Historians speculate that American evangelical missionaries introduced Christianity into the region over a hundred years ago. Now Christians make up about 30 percent of the population.
Now, the Christians living in the area are facing increased threats to their livelihood as militants with ties to communist China ramp up their attacks.
Local villager Tat Nyi Nat told Morning Star News, “We live in hills and were isolated, but we got a chance to study and became educated persons because of the Christian missionaries. We were happy. But we are not happy for the future of our children.”