Myanmar (Burma), Southeast Asia
Political Leader: Sr. Gen. Than Shwe
Religions: Buddhism 82.9%, Christianity 8.7%, Islam 3.8%, Other 4.6%
Persecution Ranking: 25
Number of Terrorist Groups: 12
Acts of Terrorism: 40; Casualties: 80
Percent of Corruption: 81%
% of People in Poverty: 32.7%
Myanmar, officially the Union of Myanmar, is the largest country by geographical area in mainland Southeast Asia. Myanmar is bordered by China on the north, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, with the Andaman Sea to the south, and the Bay of Bengal to the southwest.
The government defined almost all anti-regime activities as “acts of terrorism” and made little distinction between peaceful political dissent and violent attacks by insurgents or criminals, according to Country Reports on Terrorism 2007. The Myanmar government was quick to characterize dissident groups as aligned with terrorist organizations and used this as justification to scrutinize and disrupt their activities.
In the past several years, bombs have exploded in Rangoon and other parts of Myanmar. In most incidents, the government of Myanmar claimed the incidents were a subversive act, “committed by a group of insurgent destructive elements who wanted to disturb and destroy stability of the state.” Authorities did not make public any evidence of a genuine investigation or identify the specific perpetrators.
Buddhists make up 82.9% of Myanmar’s population, while Christians comprise only about 8.7%. Myanmar’s citizens began peaceful protests for better living standards in mid-August 2007 in response to a sudden rise in gas prices in Myanmar. After several hundred Buddhist monks joined them, the government responded with arrests, a media crackdown and night raids. It is unclear how many people have been killed in the crackdown.
Challenges for Christians:
Myanmar is ranked No. 25 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2008 World Watch List. Highly repressive, authoritarian military regimes have ruled the country since 1962. Myanmar has the highest number of forcibly conscripted child soldiers in the world, estimated to be 70,000, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Constitutional protection of religious freedom has not existed since 1988, after the armed forces brutally suppressed massive pro-democracy demonstrations and abolished the constitution. Two ethnic groups—the Karen and the Chin—have historical ties to Christianity. The U. S. State Department estimates that 3% of the country’s 47 million people are Baptist. Myanmar’s Christians have been specifically targeted by the regime.
Open Doors reported that thousands of Christians are among 2.4 million still suffering in parts of Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which hit in May 2, 2008 and killed more than 146,000 people. According to a report by the United Nations and Southeast Asian nations, recovery will cost more than $1 billion, which includes the most urgent needs such as food, agriculture and housing for the next three years.
The ruling junta has deliberately obstructed, restricted and diverted the distribution of aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis, and is now accused of stealing millions of dollars of aid money through foreign exchange mechanisms, CSW said.
In addition, the regime has failed to respond to a growing humanitarian crisis in Chin State, western Burma, where plagues of rats have destroyed rice fields and food supplies, reportedly causing a famine affecting 100,000 people in over 200 villages. The regime is also reported to be obstructing all efforts to deliver assistance to these villages.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have needlessly died as a result of the junta’s military offensives, torture, brutality and deliberate criminal neglect,” CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor said. “We cannot afford to wait another 20 years before the international community acts decisively in response to this political and humanitarian crisis.”
On August 8, 1988, at least 3,000 pro-democracy demonstrators were killed by Myanmar’s military regime.
- Pray for Myanmar’s military regime’s to be more willing to cooperate and coordinate counterterrorist activities within the country and throughout the region. Pray that Myanmar will continue to not harbor terrorist organizations.
- With the Myanmar government’s decision to allow foreign aid workers to enter in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, pray that Christians in Myanmar and worldwide will have an open the door to share the Gospel and for many lives to be transformed. Pray for Myanmar’s government to stop diverting the distribution of aid from getting to victims of Cyclone Nargis.
- Pray for Myanmar’s peace and for the country to turn to God, especially Myanmar’s leader, Than Shwe.
- The military regime actively promotes Buddhism and there is much discrimination against Christians. Pray for God’s protection and favor to be upon Christians.
- Thank God that many Buddhist monks are interested in finding out about Jesus and there have been many miraculous conversions.
- The leader of the opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She has been kept under house arrest since 1990. Pray the voice of the people would eventually be heard, and that there would be political and religious freedom and justice in Myanmar.
- The military regime has tried to wipe out the Church, but it still continues to grow. Pray that Christians would be able to stay faithful to God as they are persecuted and have courage to share their love of God with others.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors, Christianity Today, Christian Solidarity Worldwide