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A campaign to wipe out Christians and ethnic minority groups in Myanmar is creating a refugee crisis and new challenges for the U.S. government.

According to a leaked document obtained by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Myanmar's military regime has embarked on a plan to rid the country of Christians through force and persuasion.

"The Christian religion is very gentle—identify and utilize its weakness," explains the plan, titled "Program to Destroy the Christian Religion in Burma."

The document, believed to have originated in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, circulated widely in the capital city of Yangon.

"Virtually every kind of human-rights violation is taking place," said Benedict Rogers, CSW's advocacy officer for South Asia. Rogers and activists from Myanmar recently visited Washington, D.C., as part of a worldwide tour to brief senior officials on the plight of minorities in the country, formerly known as Burma.

In February, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper published statements from the Myanmar Council of Churches and Catholic Bishops Conference that denounced the CSW report. However, Rogers said these groups have not always supported government religious policy. In 1999, they reported that government officials had expelled ministers, arrested Christians, compelled them to renounce their faith, and prohibited them from evangelizing and worshiping.

Ethnicity, religion, and politics combine to fuel a civil war between the government and minority ethnic groups. Myanmar's military rulers wield Buddhism as a political weapon against predominantly Christian minority ethnic groups, such as the Karen, Chin, and Kachin.

Human-rights groups estimate that at least 500,000 displaced persons take refuge in eastern ...

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April 2007

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