Muslims are not the only religious minority facing persecution in Myanmar.
More than 100,000 Christians from Myanmar are seeking refuge in Malaysia after being forced to flee their homes due to religious persecution, according to a report by TRT World, Turkey’s national public broadcaster.
“Myanmar isn’t safe for us,” one Christian refugee was quoted as saying. “They killed people, sent people to jail because of religion.”
Just 6 percent of Myanmar’s population 55 million people are Christians and about 4 percent are Muslims. Human rights groups have documented brutal rights violations against Christians and Muslims in the Buddhist majority nation, including dispossession, torture, forced labor and rape.
Myanmar was ranked 28th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith.
Religious and ethnic conflict lines are sometimes blurred in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The Southeast Asian country is a patchwork of more than 100 unique ethnicities. Many of the ethnic minorities once waged prolonged and bloody insurgencies against the previous military regime, which was run by the Bamar ethnic majority.
The landslide victory of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s 2015 general elections was hailed as the country’s first free and fair vote in 25 years, and it brought fresh hope to religious and ethnic minorities. But the new administration has been accused of ignoring the ongoing persecution by security forces.
According to a disturbing report by the United Nations, the Burmese military and police may have committed crimes against humanity during a four-month crackdown on the stateless Rohingya Muslims. The report, which is based on interviews with more than 100 Rohingya refugees, included chilling accounts of babies and children being stabbed to death.
The Burmese government has repeatedly denied allegations of persecution against the Rohingya. A spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s party told BBC News that the claims in the U.N. report were “exaggerated” and an “internal” not “international” issue.
The Rohingya primarily reside in northern Rakhine state close to the Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. The ethnic group’s origin is disputed by the Buddhist majority population in Rakhine, who argue Rohingya Muslims are not indigenous to the state and thus should be denied citizenship.
Some Rohingya Muslims have become Christians, a choice which Open Doors says makes even their own people hate them.
“They become outcast among the outcasts,” the Christian organization says on its website.
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