Feb 1 marks a year since the military coup in Myanmar. The impact on the country, including its Christians, has been catastrophic. Twelve months on from the military’s seizure of power, what’s the latest, how is Open Doors helping Christians, and how can we pray?
Open Doors local partners pray over emergency aid that will be distributed to Christians in Myanmar
On Christmas Eve last year, around 30 people were brutally killed in Kayah State, Myanmar, after the vehicles they were travelling in were stopped by the military. At least 15 of those who lost their lives that day were young and displaced Christians who had just finished making preparations for Christmas.
According to Open Doors local partners in Myanmar, more than 25 Christians were killed by the military in 2021. Believers are traumatised by what has been happening, and they are also struggling hard for their survival.
The devastating impact of the coup on life for Christians in Myanmar is reflected in the latest World Watch List. The country is number 12 – a rise of six places on last year. The coup has also had a devastating impact on the economy. “Many believers are depending on the generosity of the church,” says Daisy*, one of the partners. “However, the church itself is suffering as the tithes and offerings have drastically decreased, and some churches now cannot pay salaries to their pastors and mission workers.”
The country has also been ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic. More than 150 pastors have died from the virus.
Why are Christians being targeted?
Myanmar’s Christian-majority states, such as Chin, Kachin and Karen, are where the country’s long-running civil war between the military and armed ethnic groups is concentrated, even before the military coup.
But since last February, fighting has intensified and, all believers are viewed with suspicion – including the many who do not advocate violence.
Sometimes churches are simply caught in the crossfire – like one church that was attacked because it’s where protestors sought refuge from the military.
Another factor that may increasingly come into play stems from the notion that ‘to be a Burmese is to be Buddhist’. “The civil war could be a good opportunity to uproot the Christians from their lives,” shares Brother Lwin*. “The economy is ruined. These are subtle moves, shrouded by the violence of the civil war, which create a path for Buddhistisation of the Christians in Myanmar.”
“There are still people out there who care for us”
The number of Christians forcibly displaced because of the coup is estimated to be around one million.
Last year, Open Doors local partners provided food, medical and other vital aid to more than 10,000 believers. Several families were moved to tears on receiving the help.
“We thought everybody had forgotten us,” said one recipient. “But these blankets and warm clothes have reminded us that there are still people out there who care for us, pray for us and work to support us.”
In one place, a shelter has been built by Open Doors partners for believers to stay and use as a classroom to teach the children, who greet the provision of books and pens, as well as winter clothes, with tremendous excitement.
Local partners also run seminars to help Christians respond to persecution. Believers found it difficult to pray for the military.
Jack*, one of the trainers says, “When we studied ‘Knowing the Enemy’ lessons, they began to understand that the military itself is not evil, but it’s the devil that is turning them to do evil, the believers began to understand, and could start praying for the military.”
The situation in Myanmar seems grim, however Christians continue to hope in the Lord – helped by your prayers and support.
*Names changed for security reasons