Burma, as it is still called by the U.S. government (which refuses to accept the name Myanmar), has been ruled by a military junta since September 1988. The junta has little interest in anything that resembles democracy, including freedom of religion.
For instance, when tens of thousands protested the junta's increase in fuel prices in 2007, the government “brutally suppressed the protests, killing at least 13 people and arresting thousands for participating in the demonstrations,” according to The World Factbook. “Since then, the regime has continued to raid homes and monasteries and arrest persons suspected of participating in the pro-democracy protests.”
The constitution of Myanmar does not provide for freedom of religion and all religious organizations are monitored by the junta, according to Open Doors, which ranks this nation among its 50 most persecuted countries on the planet.
“Permits are required for religious gatherings of more than five people. House church leaders are arrested and fined for not having proper registration documents.”
Open Doors adds that “Christians also face persecution from local Buddhist clergy and village leaders.” This is common in many Asian countries where Buddhism (Hollywood-ized as peaceful and loving) is the dominant religion.
Hkakabo Razi is Southeast Asia's highest mountain at 19,295 feet (5881 meters). It is located in Hkakabo Razi National Park at the extreme north of Myanmar on the border with China and India. (Photo by Myanmar Hiking & Mountaineering Federation)
Climbing For Christ has membership in Myanmar. A pastor, who is Burmese, works where there are “very much interesting mountains. You can visit. I warmly welcome you and your group in the Lord's name.” This pastor, who is founder of a house church that has about 50 members, claims “there is no more persecution in our country” for visitors from foreign countries. However, nationals “have no single right.”
A new constitution that was approved on May 10, 2008. This constitution will take effect when a new parliament is convened following elections scheduled for 2010. The country has been without a constitution since Sept. 18, 1988, when the junta suspended it. Religious freedom will not occur with or without the constitution.
In addition to denying its people freedom, the government has helped make Myanmar one of Asia's poorest countries. Despite being resource rich (including oil and gas) the junta has mismanaged the economy. Rural poverty is pervasive. But the physical need provides an opportunity for Christians to deliver the Good News of hope that is eternal.
Location: Southeastern Asia. Leader: Lt. General Thein Sein (since Oct. 24, 2007), who is the head of the military junta in control of the government. Population: 48.1 million in a country that is roughly the size of Texas. Primary Religion: Buddhism (89 percent) with 4-to-6 percent of the population considered Christian.
Where in the world?
Myanmar (shaded brown) is bordered by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between (clockwise left to right) Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. (The World Factbook)
Posted Dec. 28, 2009