Myanmar’s military has bombed 60 Christian churches in Kachin State over the last 18 months, 20 of which have been replaced by Buddhist pagodas, American pastor Bob Roberts, who recently traveled to the area, told the Christian Post this week.
Roberts, who is active efforts to promote religious tolerance around the world, visited Kachin State to observe the toll Myanmar’s war against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has taken on Christian civilians in the area. Roberts reported that 450 Kachin villages have been burned since a ceasefire between the two parties broke down in 2011. The conflict has escalated over the last few months.
Roberts linked the destruction of the Kachin churches and villages to the international attention being paid to the mass expulsion of Rohingya from Rakhine State, which the UN has described as a genocidal. Since operations in Rakhine State have been scaled back, he said, the same units have been moved to the front in Kachin.
“That is one of the reasons for big alarm because they are the exact same units,” Roberts said. “Already, there has been murder, there has been rape, there has been all of these things. It has not yet gotten to the level of the Rohingya, but there is concern that it could real easy.”
Roberts also explained how the suffering caused by the conflict is compounded by the area’s remoteness.
“Nearly every Baptist church — I don’t care if it is little or big, and most of them are not all that large — has between 400 and 2,000 refugees now in the Kachin State,” he said. “The Kachin Baptist Convention is the [only] one that is doing the relief.”
He also described stories he heard of the violence Kachin people endured during clashes.
“I spent time talking to a man who was with his son taking care of his cattle in the field, and these jet fighters and helicopters came and started shooting and killed his son and shot him in the knee,” Roberts said. “He had to hurry up and then bury his son and then leave the village.”
Roberts has called on American Christian leaders to not be “hardened” by stories from other refugee crises around the world and to the support the Kachin Baptist Convention.
“This is a very real case in which we have a chance to do something right now if we speak up,” he said. “It’s also one of those things to where if we don’t speak up, then somebody’s going to get hurt.”