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Christians flee violence by Burmese military against ethnic Kachin people

Country/Region: Myanmar, Burma, South and East Asia

Thousands of people from a mainly Christian ethnic group in Burma (Myanmar) have been forced to flee their homes amid fighting between the Burmese military and rebel troops.

Bhamo-in-Kachin-State-4X3.jpg
Bhamo in Kachin State, Burma
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by  Jonas Merian

The violence erupted near the Taping River by the Chinese border in June when a 17-year ceasefire between government forces and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which controls the territory, was broken.

Burmese troops have cleared entire villages by threatening violence if they come under fire from the KIO’s military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Lum Hong, a villager from Ng Eng in central Kachin, said:

We are afraid the Burmese soldiers will be attacking our village at any time. We had to leave everything behind. Our cows, our oxen, our farmland. Everything. We don't know when it will be safe to go back.

Last month, government troops seized control of a church in the village of Katsu and turned it into a military outpost, complete with fortifications, trenches and landmines. They have also planted landmines in a schoolyard and along several main roads and taken over houses abandoned by villagers. People have increasingly been subjected to extortion, torture and looting.

Over 20,000 Kachin people are thought to have been displaced by the conflict. An estimated 10,000 have fled to the town of Laiza, where they are being sheltered in cramped conditions in relief camps. They are surviving on meagre rations, relying on donations of food and medicine from churches and individuals. Torrential rains during the monsoon season have created unsanitary conditions, making it difficult to prevent the spread of disease.

Around a further 10,000 are in makeshift camps along the Chinese border, while around 6,000 are believed to have crossed into China seeking safety with relatives.

Over 90 per cent of the 1.2 million Kachins are Christian. It is a strategically important state, lying between India and China, and also rich in resources including gold and jade mines, teakwood, rubber and banana plantations. 

Most Christians in Burma are members of non-Burman ethnic minorities; they are frequently targeted by the military, partly for their ethnicity and partly for their faith.

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  • Praise God for the release of John Short, an Australian missionary who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets. John, who is 75 and based in Hong Kong, was reported to security officials in Pyongyang after he was spotted leaving a Christian leaflet at a Buddhist temple, an act that is illegal in North Korea. Further Korean-language Christian pamphlets were subsequently found in his hotel room. John, who was released on 3 March after two weeks in custody, was required to sign a confession probably scripted by the authorities. Other foreign missionaries arrested in North Korea have been given long prison sentences. Give thanks to God that John has escaped further punishment, and pray for him as he recovers from his traumatic ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 9 hours ago

  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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