“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 5:10
As we continue to report on Christian brothers and sisters worldwide being jailed, tortured and killed for their beliefs, a new story emerges in Burma that is a throwback to the persecution of the first century A.D. The government of Burma has now passed new laws restricting the exercise of the Christian faith to such extremes that a permit is now required to just read a Bible.
The latest move by officials in Burma requires Christians in the Phakant Township, Kachin State to submit a written request at least 15 days in advance to read the Bible, conduct a Bible study, host Sunday school and other prayer-related activities, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The requests, mandated by the General Township Administration Department, also must be accompanied by recommendations from other departments.
“To impose a requirement on churches and individuals to seek permission to read the Bible, pray, fast and hold a Sunday school is an extreme restriction and an extraordinary further violation of freedom of religion,” Benedict Rogers, the leader of East Asia Team of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said.
To no surprise, Burma finds itself on the U.S. State Department’s list of Restricted Nations: whose policies against Christians demonstrate pure religious intolerance, along with China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The building of new churches is forbidden and Christian religious symbols, such as crosses are removed by the military.
Victims of a vicious military junta, Christians in Burma, who comprise about 9% of the population, have been brutally attacked by the military in a manner that has turned into ethnic cleansing with a Christian focus. The army raids jungle villages, killing anyone who has not fled and burning down homes and churches. As Persecution.com reported:
When the head of a monastery asked soldiers if he should warn Buddhist monks to leave a conflict area, the soldier replied, “No, we are not going to harm the Buddhists. We are only against the Christians.”
One heavily targeted Burmese minority group are the Karen people. Historically Christian, today about 40 percent of the Karen people are Christians. A Burmese official boldly stated recently, “Soon there will be no Christians in this nation. You will only be able to see a Karen person in a picture in a museum.”
It is amazing that the government authorities are so worried about the Bible and its influence that merely reading it without a permit is now a crime. And their ethnic cleansing has led to an estimated 500,000 deaths and 4,300 villages being destroyed. However, this has not stopped the growth of the Christian faith and the sharing of the Gospel in the war-torn nation. Christians continue to preach and practice their faith, despite the consequences and risks. Pray for the people in Burma to be safe, comforted and bold in their faith as well.
The struggle of the Christians in Burma brings to mind the persecution faced by the Apostles Peter and John in Acts Chapter 5. Thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel, they were miraculously rescued, escaped and went right back into town in the public to preach. Emboldened by their faith in Jesus Christ, they could not abandon their mission to share His love and message of salvation, no matter the risk:
“Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. … And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” –Acts 5:25-29.