Some Churches waiting for permission to reopen


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Religious persecution in eastern Myanmar appears to be waning.

Even though Wa leaders say some churches in the Special Region 2 have been able to reopen, Lahu leaders said some churches are still waiting for permission to reopen.

After a recent crackdown on Christian faith groups, Wa leaders say some churches in the reclusive Special Region 2 in eastern Myanmar have been able to reopen their doors.

“The news was leaked on social media,” said Daw Aye Thida Myint, chairperson of the Lahu National Development Party. “They are going to allow operation of all churches in Wa region.”

However, some churches are still waiting for permission to open, Myint said. While other religious buildings have already been destroyed.

United Wa State Party (UWSP) officials were planning to meet with Christian pastors yesterday for discussions but it was postponed, Myint said.

Starting in September, the UWSP closed over 60 Christian churches and interrogated hundreds of Christian pastors in Special Region 2.

UWSP, a Wa political group, said some churches in the area it controls along the border with China aren’t being allowed to reopen because they never received permission to be constructed.

UWSP claim it needs to monitor Christian groups to prevent religious extremists from upsetting harmony among different ethnic groups.

According to an article by Bertil Lintner in the Asia Times, a UWSP edict on September 9 instructed its cadres and soldiers to “find out what the (Christian) missionaries are doing and what are their intentions.”

Formed in 1989, after the Communist Party of Burma dissolved, the UWSP’s ceasefire with the Myanmar regime the same year ended decades of Communist insurgency in eastern Myanmar. In exchange, Wa leaders were given partial autonomy in Special Region 2 located along the border with China at a time when relations between Beijing and Myanmar were warming.

Lahu Baptist Christian League general secretary Rev. Lazaru heard the UWSP will allow Christian churches to re-open and fix the damaged ones.

“This is not an official statement. It’s just rumour. So, we can’t confirm it,” Rev. Lazaru said.

U Nyi Rang from liaison office in Lashio, confirmed some churches have been allowed to reopen before the Christmas holidays.

“As far as I know some Lahu Christian churches and Kachin Christian churches have been permitted to operate in the area. Central committee members made the decision in the headquarters last week. After discussions, we have granted freedom of religion in our Wa state and are allowing churches to operate,” U Nyi Rang told Network Media Group.

The Lahu and Wa have lived together for many years before Special Region 2 was established, Myint said. Limiting freedom of religion might negatively affect unity among the different ethnic groups and this will create difficulties in establishing a federal union. Therefore, we request the government to solve this problem.

“We are still on the path of peacebuilding in the country through the NCA (National Ceasefire Agreement) and preparing to build a federal union. The situation (in Special Region 2) can be a barrier for the creation of a federal union and peace building in our country,” she said.