Burmese soldiers targeted Christian civilians and church buildings in a recent attack against insurgents from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). The military, which accused church leaders of being part of the KIO, reportedly burned church property and several homes.
On Oct. 16, 2011, soldiers opened fire on a church in Bhamo District in Kachin state as the congregation prepared for Sunday service. No one was injured in the gunfire, but Burmese soldiers burned the property and detained five church leaders.
Although the Christians denied being part of the KIO, soldiers kicked and hit them with their guns, demanding to know where the Christians stored guns and bombs. Compass Direct News reports that the soldiers ransacked the church looking for weapons.
The soldiers tied the Christian leaders’ hands with wire and forced them to carry heavy rucksacks as they marched with the soldiers. Before releasing the five men, the soldiers told them to tell the KIO that the army was preparing to attack their headquarters in Laiza. When the men returned to their village, they found their houses in flames.
“Targeting of Christians is not unusual in Burma’s conflict zones,” Kawdin Lahpai, editor-in-chief of the Kachin News Group, told Compass Direct News. “The incident reflects the long-time policy of the Buddhist-Burman majority Burmese government, which discriminates against the ethnic Christian minority.”
The army’s most recent offensive began in June 2011 after the KIO refused to join the border security force. The military broke a ceasefire signed in 1993 and has since displaced more than 30,000 Kachin from their homes.
Sources: Compass Direct News