Myanmar

World Watch ranking: 17
Map thumbnail
Leader
General Min Aung Hlaing

How many Christians?
4.5 million (8%)

Main threats
  • Religious nationalism
  • Dictatorial paranoia

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How many Christians are there in Myanmar?

The Buddhist-majority country has 4.5 million Christians, which is just eight per cent of the country’s population of 55.7 million.

How are Christians persecuted in Myanmar?

Myanmar remains mired in a violent conflict that is having a devastating impact on the country’s Christian minority.

Since the military coup in February 2021, Christians have encountered greater violence and tighter restrictions. Believers have been killed and churches have been indiscriminately attacked, even well-established ones in predominantly Christian states like Chin and Kayah. More Christians than ever have been driven out of their homes and have found refuge in churches or camps for internally displaced people. Some are even forced to flee to the jungle where they are often deprived of access to food and healthcare. 

Christians are part of the generally peaceful resistance movement, but fighting has increased across the country and although not all ethnic minority armed groups are involved, some Christian ones are. Government forces have continued to disproportionally attack Christian villages and churches and also killed Christian aid workers and pastors, often in aerial attacks.

Beyond the conflict, converts to Christianity find themselves persecuted by their Buddhist, Muslim or tribal families and communities because they have left their former faith. Communities who aim to stay ‘Buddhist only’ make life for Christian families impossible. 

Non-traditional church groups experience opposition, too, especially those located in rural areas and those who are known for their evangelistic activities.

Meet 'Ko Aung'

“Since I have experienced persecution, I can now better understand the pain experienced by Christians suffering for their faith.”ko aung was forced to flee myanmar because of intrusive surveillance by the authorities 

The military's increasing use of sophisticated technology – much of which comes from China and Russia – is presenting another challenge for believers in Myanmar to contend with.

Ko Aung realised he was in danger when his access to not one but two banking apps was suddenly blocked. He tried to open a new bank account, but couldn’t. His fears came true when he discovered that his identity card had been flagged by the authorities. This has serious consequences. “It means I am no longer a citizen of Myanmar,” he says.

The suspicions against Ko Aung emerged following the military coup in February 2021 and centre around his relationship with a group of tribal believers. Having earlier converted to Christianity from Buddhism, he had got to know them after returning home at the beginning of the pandemic and, working as an Open Doors local partner, he helped provide practical and spiritual support for them.

“Before the military coup, me helping Christians would not have been a big issue, but now things had changed,” says Ko Aung. “They [the military] believed I was against them, working with the youth rebel groups.”

As surveillance intensified, Ko Aung was fearful of arrest and even death. “In Myanmar, people are afraid to comment on political issues over the phone,” Ko Aung says. “They are afraid that the military might be eavesdropping their phone calls. We also don’t normally use Facebook Messenger, because the military checks Facebook messaging apps and phone call lists whenever they check phones.”

But he is able to see how God is using this environment. “I think that after the coup, the younger generation is now more open to faiths other than Buddhism,” he says.

*Name changed for security reasons

How can I help Christians in Myanmar?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Myanmar. Your 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 and leadership programmes, livelihood support, and youth, children and families ministries.

please pray

Dear God, bend the hearts of the military towards justice, peace and freedom, and bring lasting safety and stability to this troubled nation. Refresh the spirits of weary believers and strengthen them as they respond to challenges in the ways You want them to. Protect churches and believers, and may Christians not be seen as a threat to different sides but as peacemakers. We especially pray for young people; captivate their hearts, keep them from the evil one, and show them the precious callings You have for them. Thank You for the wonderful work of church leaders and local partners; nourish them as they seek to nourish others, and equip them for every task. Amen. 

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