Myanmar Ministries Persist Through Persecution

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Indigenous Christian ministries in Myanmar (formerly Burma) continue to effectively proclaim the gospel despite pockets of severe persecution.

Most of the persecution is promoted by local officials--with the tacit approval of federal authorities. These sanctions include closing church meeting places and selecting Christian workers and new believers to serve in forced labor without pay.

The socialist government of Myanmar promotes Buddhism as a national religion. It offers interest-free loans for Buddhists, and supplies supplemental rice to Buddhists--Christians are excluded. Officials offer large sums of money to Christians to become Buddhist. Public schools indoctrinate pupils in Buddhism. Christian children along with all others are expected to bow before Buddha.

Being excluded from government subsidies is a severe blow to Christians because the economy is so destitute. The country produces virtually no consumer goods, and prices continue to inflate while starvation wages remain level--for those who have jobs. Most of the people are becoming poorer while many suffer from malnutrition.

Moreover, some churches experience harassment from the police. Police have authority to close down churches that don't have proper registration or own their own land and buildings. Those that meet in houses or apartments or in buildings shared by others are vulnerable, especially if neighbors complain.

Despite these severe hardships, the indigenous churches and mission agencies in the land first apostled by American missionary Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) continue their forerunner's diligence. There is a climate of openness to the gospel among most people. One leader says that "true Buddhists"--those not politically motivated--are open to all religion, including Christianity. Young men are starting new ministries as leaders from the revival of the late 70s are getting older. And, as the central government is forced to give its attention to other issues, these younger ministries are getting bolder.

Christian Aid assists a dozen indigenous ministries in Myanmar. To learn how you can encourage them, write and put MI-341 715-WMN on the subject line.