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Myanmar: Army softens stance on Shan State

March 2020

Village in Shan State SOURCE Flickr Axel Drainville 2012
see image info

Christians in Myanmar (Burma) have found their prayers answered after the anti-Christian United Wa State Army has allowed at least 50 churches to reopen.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) is in control of the Wa Special Region in Myanmar, bordering China’s Yunnan province, and is a China-backed, communist-influenced separatist group.

In 2018, local church leaders issued a plea for prayer when the UWSA closed more than 100 churches in northern Shan State in 2018, demolishing some and banning the construction of new church buildings.

At least 200 Christian leaders and workers were investigated and detained, although all have since been released.

According to Barnabas Fund partners, the UWSA order to close the churches included the Chinese term ‘jidujiao’, which refers to Protestant and evangelical Christians, indicating the clampdown was aimed at specific denominations.

A Bible school was also shut down and 41 students forced into hard labour as military porters.

However, with this sign of softening, local church leaders welcomed the re-openings and reported most church buildings in the towns of Panghsang, Hopang, Kho Pang, and Namphan are now open for worship, leaving only one church and a school still closed.

In a statement, Barnabas Fund called for continued prayer. It said, ‘Praise God for the prayers of local church leaders and Christians which have led to the reopening of at least 50 church buildings.

‘Thank the Lord that the Christian leaders were released from detention and that only one church and a school building remain closed. Pray that they too will be reopened soon. Pray for the protection of Christians in a region where persecution is rife.’

However, state-sponsored persecution of the Rohingya people continues, with millions of Muslim and Christian refugees fleeing Myanmar into makeshift camps set up in neighbouring countries.

But even there, Muslim Rohingya have been attacking the minority Christian Rohingya, burning their rudimentary churches to build mosques, and surrounding Christian settlements.