By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
NAYPYIDAW (Worthy News) - Thousands of refugees faced another tense day Thursday after reportedly being forced to flee their Christian village in northwestern Myanmar as the army attacked it.
At least 20 houses were set on fire by invading government troops during the May 7 army raid on Chan Thar in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, Christian aid workers said.
“It is so sad to hear the houses were burned down and destroyed with an intentional attitude,” said a local church representative in remarks shared with Worthy News.
“The village, which has been attacked before by the military, is in a region where Christians and Buddhists have lived side by side peacefully for decades,” said Christian charity Barnabas Fund.
Barnabas says it has provided “food and practical aid for thousands of Christians forced to flee similar assaults” by the ruling army of Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Chan Thar and the historic communities of Chaung Yoe and Monhia are known as Bayingyi villages where inhabitants descended from Christians. They settled in the area in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, according to Christian experts.
The latest army raid wasn’t an isolated incident. “The military attacked Chan Thar in January 2022, killing two villagers, including a mentally disabled resident,” Barnabas Fund recalled. “Three people were severely beaten, and the soldiers looted property. Thousands fled the village to safe areas near Mandalay.”
In June 2021, dozens of soldiers raided a Chan Thar church and the home of its clergy, detaining and arresting six ministers, Worthy News learned.
“The Tatmadaw,” as the army is known locally, also attacked Chaung Yoe and other Christian villages in the Sagaing Region, according to Christian sources.
“In March 2022, a father and son were shot attempting to flee a raid on Chaung Yoe, in which soldiers set a church pulpit on fire and burned at least ten homes,” Barnabas Fund added.
The military, which seized power in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in February 2021, has for “many years” persecuted Myanmar’s Christian minority, the group stressed.
However, reports of violence against Christians have increased since the February army coup that ousted Myanmar’s democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The army views devoted Christians and Christian ethnic groups as a threat to its power base, according to a Worthy News assessment.
Close to 2,000 people have died in coup-related violence, and thousands more have been jailed by the junta, say rights investigators and other sources.
Barnabas Fund said it had urged prayers for the Christians in Myanmar, who it estimates comprise roughly 6.2 percent of the Buddhist majority population of about 58 million.
“Pray for protection and strength for our brothers and sisters in [the attacked] Chan Thar and other Christian villages in the region,” the group wrote.
“Ask for an end to attacks and peace in beleaguered Myanmar,” Barnabas Fund added in a prayer request to supporters.