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Excerpt from All Quiet on the Weste (r)

Excerpt from All Quiet on the Western Front

The Situation in Chin State and Sagaing Division, Burma
by Images Asia, Karen Human Rights Group and The Open Society Institute's
Burma Project

January 1998

Religious Persecution

The Nagas as well as the Kukis and the Chins are manly Christian, and there
are reports of widespread and systematic religious persecution along the
north-western border.  This type of oppression has become more consistent
and widespread since December 1995.

Incidents in the Lahai district of the Naga hills include restrictions on
attending church services, and destruction of churches and religious
symbols, and orders that Christian pastors must obtain permission before
they can perform religious duties.  As in Chin State, the SLORC is said to
have provided benefits to those who convert to Buddhism, including free food
and exemptions from forced labour for converts.

Pu Van Bik, a Chin evangelist in his 30s from Kalaymyo township explained
the growing restrictions.

"My village has 300 houses and we are all Chins and all Christians.  Being
an evangelist, I want to do my religious work.  Now I cannot conduct home
crusades, camps and counselling as they don't allow me to preach.  They
didn't send a written order but they said: 'If you do it, you will be shot.'
Since 1996, they announced it more strictly.  The soldiers gave the order
through the Village LORC.  Usually, every church gets a permit from the
Village LORC and recognition by the church is enough.  But since the Village
LORC members don't dare disobey their orders, they don't give the permit.
They didn't allow me to preach but I used to do it secretly."  (Interview,
May 1997)

In the Naga Hills, the military has tried to force Christians to become
Buddhists.  Thupow, a 42 year old Christian Naga from Laeshi township reported:

"In December 1995, the army interfered in the religious affairs of our Naga
hills.  There are very few Buddhists, the people are mostly Christians.
They forced the people to convert to Buddhism.  One army Captain made the
villagers sign a document that they had become Buddhists.  We refused and
they told all the Christian pastors not to preach among the villagers.  They
threatened them with a gun not to preach.  They stopped the service in the
church and destroyed the church.  This was a big crisis in the Naga hills,
so we reported that case to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.  But they
didn't take any action on that.

"In 1996, they sent some Buddhist monks to the Naga hills.  We believe that
these Buddhist monks were fake monks, because they never ate the food in
their monastery.  They used to come and eat the food in the villagers'
houses (traditionally monks should take their meals at the monastery).  The
villagers who were interested in Buddhism got privileges.  They were never
called as porters and SLORC said these villagers will receive 700 Kyats per
month.  The children in the Naga hills and the Buddhist monks became very
close, and the children saw a pistol under one of their pillows.  So the
people think that they didn't come to the Naga hills for religious purposes.
They ordered the Christian pastors not to preach without their permission.
We reported these circumstances to the Ministry and asked them whether they
had issued an order or not.  If they didn't issue any order, we wanted them
to take action against these monks.  But we got no response."  (Interview,
May 1997)