Thousands of Myanmar Christians flee persecution

Myanmar Christians
In this March 11, 2017, photo, Christian Burmese refugees sit in a classroom in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (PHOTO: AP Photo/Joshua Paul).

Originally published in The Christian Times

More than 100 000 Christians are now living as refugees in Malaysia after fleeing from their homes in Myanmar (Burma) because of rising religious persecution.

Myanmar’s civilian government, under the leadership of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been accused of covering up abuses against Christian minorities, according to Turkey’s national public broadcaster, TRT World.

“Myanmar isn’t safe for us. They killed people, sent people to jail because of religion,” said one Christian refugee.

Buddhist nationalists, the military, and the police have been accused of being involved in committing acts of violence and even genocide against the minorities.

Most of Myanmar’s estimated 4 million Christians are from ethnic minorities who live in states bordering China, Thailand, and India, according to The Christian Post.

Some of the persecuted Christians are hoping to resettle in the US, but they might be affected by President Donald Trump’s new travel ban, which suspends the country’s refugee program. The executive order, which was blocked by two federal courts last week, also seeks a 55 percent reduction in refugee visas from 110 000 to 50 000 this year.

Over 160 000 Burmese citizens have resettled in the US. in the past decade, and they account for almost 25% of all new refugees since 2007, according to The Associated Press.

“America is really our fatherland in terms of religion,” said a 38-year-old woman named Tin. “They sent their missionaries to our country and taught us to be Christians. And now we had to escape. All we want is to be safe,” she added.

Tin and her community fled the Chin State, where over 90% of the residents followed the tenets of the American Baptist Church by 2009, according to Human Rights Watch. This puts them in conflict with the military campaign to elevate Buddhism over other religions.

Tin and the other Christians said that people threw rocks at them when they gathered for family prayers. They had to hide their bibles for fear of more attacks.

Sang, a 29-year-old school teacher who learned English as a theology student, read through a copy of Trump’s executive order and agreed that terrorists must be kept out of the US. However, he maintained that he will not cause a problem in the country because he is a Christian who wants to work for a living.

“We are not terrorists, we are Christians. We will never be a problem in the United States. We will get educations, we will work hard. We only seek safety,” said Sang.

There are currently 130 000 Burmese refugees in Malaysia who are living in Kuala Lumpur’s poorest neighborhoods while awaiting resettlement. Some of them have kept their belongings packed in their baggage so that they would be ready when they are called in to get stamps on documents or meet with officials.

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