Burmese Military Memo Calls for Destruction of Christians

Reports of accelerating persecution towards Burma's Christian minority by the military regime have been confirmed in a secret memo that appears to have been leaked from a government ministry, the UK Times reported.

Entitled "Programme to destroy the Christian religion in Burma," the document gives detailed instructions on how to wipe out the Burmese Christian population, stating "There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practiced."

"The Christian religion is very gentle — identify and utilize its weakness," the memo encourages enforcers, calling for the imprisonment of anyone caught evangelizing.

"If anyone discovers Christians evangelizing in the countryside they are to report it to the authorities and those caught evangelizing will be put in prison," the document states, according to a report by the Mizzima News.

The memo was reportedly received from Burma's Ministry of Religious Affairs. While the government has refused to claim responsibility for the document, officials have not made any public statement denying authorship. It has been suggested that the memo was produced by a Buddhist organization backed by the state, with the unofficial support of the military junta.

The Burmese Christian minority makes up about 6% of the population. Predominantly Christian communities targeted by the military include the Karen tribe of eastern Burma and the Chin ethnic group. Human rights reports from within the country estimate that 27,000 members of the Karen tribe have been forced from their villages in the past year. Many have fled to refugee camps in neighboring Thailand.

Other minority groups have also been the target of state-sponsored persecution, under a deliberate policy to oust all ethnic groups that do not share the Burmese language and Buddhist religion, human rights groups have reported.

The United Kingdom All Party Parliamentary Group on Burma released a report today detailing the military's systematic assault on Christians in the country. Entitled "Carrying the Cross: The military regime's campaign of restriction, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma," the report includes information obtained from the memo.

"Citizens who do not conform to the regime's version of these face potentially serious consequences," the report said, citing military tactics that include "churches in Rangoon finding it difficult to obtain permission to renovate their buildings," and "pastors in Chin State being killed."

Human rights groups have been warning of a coming health catastrophe in eastern Burma, where the heart of the assault is taking place.

"Our whole village was burnt down by Burmese soldiers in February 2006. Since then we have been hiding in the surrounding jungle," said Eha Hsar Paw, a Karen Christian woman who fled to a refugee camp near the Thai border while late in her pregnancy. "The soldiers would just shoot anyone they saw, even children." She lost the baby from the stress of the two-week journey to the camp, her fifth child to die during the conflict, The Independent reported January15.

"If they found our rice they would burn it, they cut holes in our cooking pots and tore up our clothes. The journey here was very difficult. We arrived at one village expecting to be able to buy food, only to find that they were also getting ready to leave and so they wouldn't sell any to us. One of my children died in the jungle before we left and another died when we reached this camp. It was hard to leave our village, but if we had stayed there we would all be dead."

The long-standing conflict between the Burmese government and Karen State has seen a drastic escalation in the past year, with villagers driven from their homes and forced to work as slaves for the military. A report from The Independent said the villages are being systematically destroyed and mined to prevent residents from returning. At least 232 villages in eastern Burma have been destroyed in the past year alone.

See The Independent report.

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