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Christians in the Wa Special Region of Myanmar have long endured persecution but the situation has worsened with church leaders and students recently arrested and over 50 churches closed.

The WA region is one of the most “secretive places on earth” according to the BBC. Bordering China in East Shan State, it is under the Myanmar Government, yet Chinese Communists still control the laws and limit the use of phones and electricity.

In the last few months, the crackdown on practising Christianity has been widely felt throughout the area. Ninety-two pastors have been arrested with no indication of their release; three church buildings have been burnt and destroyed, while 52 churches have been closed. The HuTuawng Lasho Bible School has been closed and 41 of its students, arrested.

Currently, Christians in the region are told to “recant, be silent and not speak of Jesus again if you want to enjoy freedom” according to a local source. Being caught with a Bible means a three-year prison sentence while authorities work to “cleanse” the area of Christianity.

Missionaries have never been welcome in the Wa Region but despite this, many conversions have taken place with whole villages turning to Christ since 2012.

Just four years ago, the Media4Christ mission group arrived under the Baptist church and although they were not welcome to preach, they booked a hotel room and invited people to hear the Gospel. A woman in the area was healed of a known disease and spoke of this to many others, because of her healing, many locals soon flocked to the hotel room to hear the Gospel and receive prayer.

Recently, the group was invited back by a local Baptist pastor but when they arrived, unbelievers filed a report to the government and local authorities drove them out of town. Because of this, the local Baptist pastor was arrested and kept imprisoned for 15 days and as of September this year, his church closed down.

Because of the many conversions, many soldiers in the Wa army have left to commit to church while new converts refuse to join, making it difficult for local leaders to build a reliable army and creating tension between Christians and the government.

Wa Leaders refuse to accept Christ and Christianity as they believe they are the “Lords of the Land” and Jesus Christ has not helped them.

Despite strict laws and surveillance, sources are still working to gather information and updates on the situation.

Sources: Voice of the Martyrs, BBC