South East Asia

Christian minority faces double threat from Buddhist military and Jihadists in aftermath of Myanmar violence

Persecuted church agency, Barnabas Fund, issues warning of dangers facing Myanmar’s forgotten Christian minority

A leading Christian aid agency this week called for attention to be given to Myanmar’s persecuted Christian community, who, like the Rohingya Muslims, have been targets of violence and intimidation by the military.

Barnabas Fund points to a new threat of Jihadist violence which now faces the Christian community, in nearby Chin state, as a direct result of the Rohingya crisis. Muslim militants who launched a series of attacks last October which led to this year’s heavy-handed and repressive overreaction by the Myanmar military, could soon have their numbers reinforced by Islamist fighters from Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

“Al Qaeda is urging jihadists to flock to the region to fight for the Rohingya Muslims,” according to Barnabas Fund. “This is not an idle suggestion. It is in fact, almost exactly what happened a few months ago in the southern Philippines when IS-linked jihadists from across South East Asia quiety infiltrated Marawi city and seized control of it, killing a number of Christians.”

Barnabas Fund points to claims by Malaysian authorities in January that they arrested an IS jihadist heading to fight in the Rohingya area.

“As Islamic State loses military control in Syria and Iraq, Al-Qaeda sees itself as having an opportunity to regain its claim to lead the global jihadist movement,” reported the aid agency.

Barnabas Fund said that Christians were the forgotten victims of the violent and repressive tactics of Myanmar’s military. They are already suffering appalling persecution and violence from the state. A recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom Hidden Plight: Christian Minorities in Burma recorded large-scale violence against Christians by the military. The acts of violence include desecration and damage to churches, and “grave human rights violations” including “sexual violence”, “torture of pastors, church workers and ordinary civilians”.

To date some 120,000 Christians have fled the violence.

Barnabas Fund warns that if Al Qaeda fighters arrive in sufficient numbers, Christians will face an impossible situation. They will continue to suffer “appalling violence at the hands of the Myanmar army AND being attacked by Jihadists.”