How many Christians are there in Myanmar?
The Buddhist-majority country has 4.4 million Christians, which is just 8% of the country’s population.
How are Christians persecuted in Myanmar?
The persecution of Christians in Myanmar has worsened in the wake of the military coup in February 2021.
The army has attacked Christian villages and churches, while leaving Buddhist monasteries untouched, and killed Christian aid workers and pastors. The coup has exacerbated the country’s ongoing civil war which was already centralised in Christian-majority state such as Kachin and Shan. More Christians than ever have been forced to live in internally displaced people camps where they are often deprived of food and healthcare.
Between 1962 and 2011, when Myanmar was led by the staunchly-Buddhist military, Christians were systematically persecuted. The coup has not only brought back awful memories for Christians, it’s prompted fears that they will be repeated.
Meanwhile, converts continue to experience persecution from their Buddhist, Muslim or tribal families and communities for leaving their former faith. Communities who aim to stay ‘Buddhist only’ make life for Christian families impossible by not allowing them to use neighbourhood water resources. Non-traditional church groups experience opposition, especially those located in rural areas and/or are known for proselytising.
Christian men in the army find it very difficult to practise their faith, with the army known to impose forced labour on believers to prevent them from attending Sunday services and accessing Christian community. Following the military coup, this control is likely to intensify. Christian men are also often targeted for recruitment into militias.
Meet 'Shwe Shwe'
“The situation is hopeless, but the greatest thing we still have is the opportunity to come closer to God and seek Him for the salvation of the lost souls, for peace in the country and hope for the people.”Shwe Shwe, a Christian in Myanmar
What’s life like for Christians in Myanmar?
Shwe Shwe* works with children and youth in Myanmar. Her words, just a few months after the coup, reflect the challenges of leading others whilst wrestling with personal emotions:
“As a Christian worker in Myanmar, I tried not to show my true emotion to our friends and family as people are seeing us as their spiritual leaders. It is a very difficult moment to be a Christian – and Christian leader as well – in this kind of situation.
“I feel guilty for not joining the protest for justice. I was so confused: should I join the protest or continue the training? I prayed to God, asking if I am doing the right thing. God answered my prayer in our family devotion. I praise God that He cares for me and the people of Myanmar. The answer was Isaiah 55:6: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” This Bible verse confirms that what I have been doing with the people is right in the eyes of God.
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Myanmar?
Yes. Myanmar is one of the big rises in the latest World Watch List, jumping six places to number 12. The persecution facing Christians in the country was already severe. This has worsened following the military coup – and it may yet get worse. “The military coup is going to be like North Korea,” says one believer. “I have big concern for our future generations.”
How can I help Christians in Myanmar?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Myanmar. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Working through local partners, Open Doors strengthens persecuted believers in Myanmar through literature distribution, discipleship programmes, livelihood support and leadership training.
Heavenly Father, we can’t imagine the grief, fear and pain facing our brothers and sisters in Myanmar. Heal the hurting, strengthen the weary, and encourage the fainthearted. Protect Your people and provide for all their needs. Thank You for powerful ways You are working through the church during this difficult time. Do this more and more. Give Christians wisdom, revelation and boldness as they seek to respond to this crisis. Soften the hearts of the military. Amen.