The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the military arm of the de facto ruling party in the region, is systematically closing churches and removing crosses from the buildings and Christians have been warned not to meet.
Issuing a statement on Facebook, the UWSA declared that all existing churches, missionaries, school teachers and clergymen were to be investigated, with foreign church workers banned and those found to support missionary activities punished.
It also said that all churches built after 1989 (when the Communist Party collapsed) must be destroyed, with the exception of one built with the government’s permission, and that no new churches will be allowed.
Wa is a self-declared autonomous state in Shan, bordering China and Thailand, which is not recognised by the Myanmar government. UWSA is Myanmar’s largest non-state army and is believed to be backed by China.
In one encouraging incident, the Christian daughter of a high ranking official volunteered to take the place of 14 evangelists who had been arrested by the Wa Army. The evangelists were released after having their heads shaved so people could identify them. “We’re praying and trying to fight against fear” a VOM contact said. “But it’s very difficult to do”.
Sources: The Voice of the Martyrs USA, World Watch Monitor