After the coup in Myanmar, Christians are hiding within the forest for safety causes.

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Christians are vulnerable to persecution from both insurgent groups and the army.(Photo: Open Doors)

Pastor Chit * quickly realized that he and his little church were no longer safe after the coup in February. The military junta that arrested Myanmar's political leadership now raided churches, offices, cafes and residential buildings. They chased protesters and shot them.

Soon the pastor and 18 families from his church decided the jungle was a safe place and moved them all to hide in the wilderness. They dug the ground, made a hole, and now they stay there most of the time. With the price of food doubling after the coup, Pastor Chit and his congregation cannot afford to buy rice and are looking for roots and leaves from the jungle.

One threat they face is being forcibly drafted into the army by the junta. A pastor in a remote village told Open Doors' partner Lwin *: "Last week the village chief was asked to recruit 30 men for the military. Now the Christians, including the pastor, are hiding in the forest."

According to Lwin, people are frustrated, hopeless, and under great stress as there are no signs of a solution to the situation.

After the nation's internet shut down, communications from Myanmar were limited. However, Open Doors' partners in Myanmar were able to share the current plight facing many of the 4.4 million Christians in Myanmar.

Min Naing *, a Christian from the capital Yangon, told Open Doors: "Every day I hear gunshots and grenades near my house. Most houses don't turn on the lights after 8pm and nobody makes any noise. We stay inside the day Also. We can only go out to buy groceries and take out the garbage. I live in the middle of Yangon with no security. "

Christians have been severely persecuted in Myanmar and many fear that they could be attacked during the current conflict. Even before the coup, the country was embroiled in what is currently the longest-running civil war in the world. It began immediately after the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. The central government had tried to enforce its control over regions that had been promised limited autonomy. Armed ethnic groups from these regions fought for the right to self-determination.

The civil war affects the predominantly Christian communities of Chin, Kachin and Karen, among others. Christians are vulnerable to persecution from both insurgent groups and the army. Fighting continues there and more than 100,000 people – mostly Christians – are living in internally displaced persons camps.

Most of them have been there for years without food or medical care. The fighting continues in neighboring Shan State, which has a large Christian minority. Thus, the February coup only added to the existing tension for Christians.

Myanmar's Christians are afraid after the coup(Photo: Open Doors)

Some of them decided to speak up and joined the demonstrators on the street. Myra *, a pastor from central Myanmar, did this with other members of the congregation every day when the protests started. "I couldn't sit still when our people fought and protested," she told Open Doors. "I have decided to go out and protest. Some other pastors have chosen to stay in church and observe fasting and prayer. We want what is best for our country."

Pastor Myra had to stop protesting when it got too dangerous; Military officers had invaded their area. Her church cannot be opened, but she meets with some of her parishioners for prayer and Bible study.

Pastor Joshua * from Central Myanmar also took part in the first protests in support of democracy. As the economic situation worsened, he began handing out food parcels to both Christians and non-Christians.

Another pastor, Zaw, donated 77 pounds of rice to the poor in the neighborhood of his church. He also helps and encourages other pastors from remote rural areas through phone calls.

From the capital to the remote jungle, Myanmar pastors seek to provide practical and spiritual support to those in need of nourishment and words of encouragement as the Myanmar Church prays and hopes for a better future.

Myanmar is number 18 on the Open Doors' World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where being Christian is the hardest.

* Name changed for security reasons.

Zara Sarvarian works for Open Doors UK & Ireland, which is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network that has supported and empowered persecuted Christians for over 60 years and works in over 60 countries. In 2020, £ 42 million was raised to provide practical assistance to persecuted Christians such as food, medicine, trauma care, legal aid, safe houses and schools, and spiritual support through Christian literature, education, and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised approximately £ 16 million.

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