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In Junta-ruled Myanmar, churches, priests face military aggression

In Junta-ruled Myanmar, churches, priests face military aggression

Junta-ruled Myanmar is witnessing increased incidents of military attacking Christian churches, arrests of priests and using churches as military bases. In September, a 31-year-old Baptist pastor named Cung Biak Hum was shot dead by Myanmar soldiers when he tried to douse a fire caused by military shelling.

They did not even spare his body; for stealing his wedding ring they severed his finger, Al Jazeera reports.

Last month's incident was one of the twenty cases human rights groups have documented since the military took over power from the civilian government in the country. Most often Christian churches, church leaders and volunteers become the target of the military.

Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy director of the Chin Human Rights Organisation, who was quoted by Al Jazeera, said that the killing and mutilation of the pastor's finger show the extreme brutality and disrespect of the Myanmar soldiers in the war against their people.

Christians in the country share the same fear. The people who talked to Al Jazeera said people fear to set out to churches as those are no longer a safe place from attack. Meanwhile, the military defended the Church attacks claiming that the local rebels would take churches as shelters.

According to 2014 census figures, which surveyed some 50 million people and excluded roughly 1 million mostly Muslim Rohingya, Myanmar's population is nearly 90 per cent Buddhist. Christians, meanwhile, make up just six per cent of Myanmar's population and are mostly from ethnic minorities.

Buddhist ethnic Bamar majority is said to have dominance in the military and politics. They themselves called the members of the Buddhist nationalist organisations. The military-drafted 2008 constitution also recognises the "special position of Buddhism as the faith possessed by the great majority of the citizens".

According to Benedict Rogers, senior analyst for East Asia at the human rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide and author of three books on Myanmar, the military has always had a "deep-seated hostility" towards non-Buddhist religious minorities.

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