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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

12/23/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In Myanmar, Buddhism is infused with nationalism.

Followers of news events in Asia are well aware that Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a hotbed of religious strife between Buddhists and Muslims. However, it is less well-known that Christians are also subject to religious persecution in the strife-ridden country.

A Buddhist mob in Myanmar caught attacking a Christian enclave.

A Buddhist mob in Myanmar caught attacking a Christian enclave.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/23/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Myanmar, Buddhism, oppression, Christianity, Islam, threat, violence


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A story in UCANews tells about Naing Ki, a citizen of Myanmar who is being increasingly marginalized because of his conversion to Baptist Christianity. The persecution of Christians in the primarily Buddhist state is common and Christian minorities in some places, particularly in rural villages, is intense.

Naing Ki told UCAN that brick were thrown at his house, how he is denied the right to trade with local merchants and must drive for three hours once every few weeks to obtain food and supplies for his family. Next year, he won't even be counted in the national census, which means he won't even be considered an actual citizen.

All because he is a Christian.

These developments are a bit baffling to those familiar with the basic tenets of Buddhism which stress non-violence and acceptance, but in Myanmar the religion is tempered with nationalism and in the face of aggressive outside threats, such as Islam, the native Buddhists have become hostile.

It's hard to blame them. The Muslims have arrived, bringing with them terrorism and violence as their preferred tactic for forcing conversions in the border regions where they have become dominant. With the mainstream of the nation still Buddhist, but fearing attack, it's natural for them to retaliate against outside influences.

It's also a convenient distraction from the dysfunctions of government as the state feebly struggles on the path to democracy.

Christians are hardly militant, but they tend to segregate rather than assimilate. The Baptists have made inroads into the rural state of Chin, where Naing Ki lives and the Buddhists there feel very threatened by their presence. The end result is a segregated society where Christians form enclaves and Buddhists form theirs, and any dispute between the two different persons immediately becomes the spark for religious conflict.

In Naing Ki's case, he is the only Christian in a small rural village of Buddhists.

It doesn't help that outside aid is banned and the government gives tacit approval to the persecution of religious minorities. According to UCAN, Christian children are often enrolled in free public education and forced to participate in daily Buddhist rituals.

As Myanmar prepares to take its census and plans to discount those who aren't Buddhist, millions of people could lose their citizenship and become stateless people, all because they are of a different religious persuasion.

Cut off from outside aid and domestic support, these people will be forced to turn to one another, which could give rise to intense, militant movements and outside intervention. If Myanmar is looking to transition into a fully-fledged, peaceful democracy, it is making the wrong move.



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