Churches and their leaders in Kachin, Kayah, and Chin states have faced intense scrutiny, violence, and disruption at the hands of the military.
In a story reported by Chindwin, one church leader, travelling through South Shan State with five other passengers, was stopped by the military. They checked all the passengers’ belongings, and accused the church leader of collecting funds and buying supplies for the People’s Defense Force (PDF). Upon finding a bag of fertilizer for his garden, they accused him of planning to make explosive devices with it. They banned him from traveling again, saying “If we see you traveling again, a bullet is all it will take to kill you.”
Christian churches and leaders in the borderlands and ethnic minority areas of Myanmar have been under constant scrutiny from the military, and are often accused of somehow working with or for ethnic militias. Many people, displaced by the fighting, often flee to churches as a place of refuge while their homes are under fire, but the churches are not given any kind of special treatment. Churches — along with public schools, seminaries, homes, and office buildings — have been burned, raided, shelled, or occupied as a military base. One believing teacher told Aljazeera, “If [soldiers] see people gathering, they will think somehow they are planning to do an uprising. I want to go back to the classroom and teach my students about Jesus’ peace and justice, love and compassion, but I cannot do so now.”
The military and police have been monitoring churches’ prayers, and arresting church leaders and members for any anti-military sentiment. Three pastors have been detained since June 14th for allegedly praying for the “end of the military dictatorship,” and plain clothes police officers charged the secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention for allegedly signing off on a COVID-19 prayer statement that used the term “terrorist junta.”
Many pastors and church leaders’, in their attempts to minister to those displaced by the fighting, have their food and medical supplies confiscated by the military. Aljazeera records one church leader saying, “Humanitarian concern, human dignity and value, and compassionate hearts make us see [all civilians] as our brothers and sisters in need… We must be with them in their fear and protect them. The suffering of our people is our suffering. The cries of our people are our pain.”