International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the European Union (EU) has announced it is lifting all remaining economic sanctions against Burma despite regular incidents of violent discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities.
The European Union and other Western governments had maintained sanctions against the Burmese government for years due to concerns over massive human rights violations until the nominally civilian government promised to begin making reforms in 2010.
The move comes even as tens of thousands of pre-dominantly Christian Kachin civilians remain displaced in refugee camps across northern Burma after the most recent offensive by the Burmese military. In a statement released on Monday in Luxembourg, members of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council cited a “remarkable process of reform” in the Southeast Asian nation that was ruled by a military dictatorship until 2010. Since then, Burma’s democratic president, Thein Sein, a former military commander, has lightened restrictions on the media and released hundreds of political prisoners. The EU report went on to say that “in response to the changes that have taken place…the Council has decided to lift all sanctions with the exception of the embargo on arms.”
However, two days after the statement was released, ICC received several first-
hand statements from sources inside Burma exposing the nature of Burma’s most recent military offensive against the predominantly Christian Kachin, which began in July of 2011. “The Burma army came into our village, without warning they burned and destroyed our village. Since we are all Christians, our church was immediately burned down and we lost all the Bibles we had in there as well. None of us can or dare to go back to our village, it is surrounded by the Burmese Army and we heard that many land mines were placed around our village,” one Kachin Christian told an ICC affiliate.
“The fighting started not too far from my village; I decided not to flee right away. But then we got attacked for the second time, this time the Burmese army used mortars, bombs, heavy artillery and chemical weapons. We had no other choice than to flee; we were worried about the women and children. Burmese soldiers shot everyone they saw, my assistant Pastor and teenagers from our village and church were killed,” recounted another Kachin Christian, now living inside one of several refugee camps located in northern Burma.
Ryan Morgan, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “We strongly urge the European Union to reconsider lifting economic sanctions on Burma until far more concrete steps have been taken to address blatant discrimination against religious minorities by the government, civilians, and the military. It appears that religious discrimination, which was institutionalized for more than half a century in Burma, remains endemic as well as pervasive. This can clearly be seen not only by the recent appalling violence against the Rohingya Muslim community but by the voluminous reports of ill-treatment of the country’s ethnic Christian communities, including the Karen, Chin, and Kachin.”
Please pray for the persecuted church, the pastors and leaders, the families of those killed, the displaced and the refugees in Burma, as well as President Sein and the political and military leaders there.
By Ryan Morgan, www.persecution.org