A group of rebels has set its sights on Burmese Christians in a fresh series of attacks, with devastating results. Over the past couple of weeks, Ethnic Wa rebels have shut down churches, destroyed religious buildings and even shaved the heads of local pastors.
The communist United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanma’s largest ethnic rebel force, launched the assaults in Shan state, according to Morning Star News.
“We confirmed that at least 12 churches have been destroyed or closed as of Sept. 20,” said one church leader of the latest spree of attacks.
The Christian leader further noted that the attacking rebels had destroyed crosses and vandalized church buildings in the local area.
There have also been instances of “forced enrollment,” whereby students at Christian schools are recruited into the armed rebel force.
“The UWSA has also forcibly recruited 41 male and female students who were taking Bible studies classes in various churches, and 52 churches in the Mongpauk area have been shut down, and three have been destroyed,” Rev. Lazaru, a spokesman for the region’s ethnic Lahu Baptist community, told Radio Free Asia.
The Wa Special Region 2 is an autonomous region in northern Shan state and is currently controlled by the rebel forces.
“Not only churches in Panghsang city were shut down, but churches in Mong Maw town were also destroyed,” said Ah Kar, another local from Mong Maw town. “Some religious leaders were arrested, and some people who worship were briefly arrested, and they were head-shaved before release. Some of those who were head-shaved were women.”
The region the UWSA attacked is under its governance and control. Thus, many believe the attacks were the result of residents’ failure to receive permission from rebel leaders for the building of church facilities.
“I heard that some churches were demolished that had been built without the permission of the UWSA central committee,” U Nyi Rang told the Myanmar Times. “We are trying to control the instability in the region caused by extremist, unregistered religious leaders from outside.”
Asia News reported that three separate Baptist churches had been destroyed by the rebels, with 52 other congregations shut down and 92 pastors arrested.
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