Religious Freedom

Every year since 1999, the State Department has designated Burma a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for discrimination against Christian and Muslim minorities. American Baptist missionaries brought Christianity to the Chin Hills in 1899, and today over 85% of Chins practice the faith.

Since the 2021 military coup, the pace and scale of Tatmadaw atrocities against Christians has seen a dramatic rise. Increasingly, the military relies on jets for deliberate attack on villages, towns, and civilian infrastructure in areas they do not control.

Christian leaders are also targeted by the military with increasing frequency. One prominent case is Dr. Hkalam Samson, the former General Secretary and President of the Kachin Baptist Convention. On December 5, 2022, the military detained Dr. Samson at the Myitkyina Airport on his way to Thailand for medical treatment. Over the next few months of detention, Dr. Samson was denied access to food and medicine provided by his wife. On April 7, 2023, the military sentenced Dr. Samson to six years in prison on false charges of terrorism, unlawful association, and inciting opposition to the regime.

The destruction of Christian churches has become more widespread, particularly in mass arson campaigns or airstrikes on villages. In October 2021, the State Department condemned the Tatmadaw’s destruction of over 100 residences and churches in Thantlang town, Chin State. Despite international condemnation, the Tatmadaw went on to destroy 21 of Thantlang’s 22 churches as well as nearly 1,300 residences, displacing the town’s entire population of approximately 10,000.

In Sagaing Region, the military has attacked several historic Catholic villages. In November 2022, the military burned hundreds of homes, a church, and a school in the village of Mon Hla, hometown of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon and Archbishop Marco Tin Way of Mandalay. On January 15, 2023, the Tatmadaw burned down the 129-year-old Assumption Church in the village of Chan Thar.

CAM issues the following recommendations to the U.S. government regarding religious freedom:

  1. The Biden administration should determine the Burmese military’s atrocities against Christians as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  2. The U.S. Congress should adopt a resolution condemning the Tatmadaw’s atrocities against Christians across Burma and demanding they immediately cease the violence.

Relevant Documents-

  1. CAM Report, Two Years After the 2021 Military Coup: The Worsening Situation of Christians Across Burma, January 2023 (available here)
  2. CAM Article, Time is Running Out for India’s Balancing Act on the Myanmar Border, published by the U.S. Institute of Peace, June 2023 (available here)
  3. Updated List of Churches Burned (available here)

List of Churches Destroyed in Thantlang:

  1. Thantlang Baptist Church 12. Presbyterian Church of Myanmar
  2. Johnson Memorial Baptist Church 13. Church on the Rock
  3. Thantlang Centenary Baptist Church 14. Seventh Day Adventist
  4. Believer Church of Myanmar 15. Evangelical Free Methodist Church of
  5. Assembly of God Myanmar
  6. United Pentecostal Church 16. Church of Jesus Christ*
  7. Mara Evangelical Church 17. Church of Jesus Christ (local)*
  8. Roman Catholic Church 18. The Church*
  9. Evangelical Holiness Church 19. Sabbath*
  10. Gospel Baptist Church 20. Mara Baptist Church*
  11. Methodist Church 21. Shalom Baptist Church

*Churches using a rented building

CAM source confidential for security reasons