Guest / Limited Access /

New restrictions placed upon Christian house churches in the Burmese capital of Yangon in January soon spread to established churches, threatening to close 80 percent of the city's congregations.

Government orders issued January 5 forced many Christians meeting in homes or apartments—a growing practice since authorities stopped issuing construction permits for new churches in the late 1990s—to cease gathering for worship. Weeks later, officials ordered several major Yangon churches, including Wather Hope Church, Emmanuel Church, and the Assemblies of God Church, to stop holding services.

Pastors from more than 100 Yangon churches were summoned to a meeting and told to sign documents pledging to cease operation of their churches, according to Mizzima, a Burmese news agency. The documents threatened punishment, including potential jail terms and the sealing of church facilities, for pastors who refused to obey the closure orders.

Some observers suggested the crackdown was related to Christian involvement in relief efforts for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar in May 2008. The country's isolationist military government initially banned foreign aid, but Christians delivering relief supplies to the Irrawaddy Delta region raised fears that Buddhists who accepted aid from Christians might convert.

The church closure orders may simply be an extension of Myanmar's existing religious policies, which elevate Buddhism—practiced by 82 percent of the population—in an effort to solidify national identity.

Reports from various mission groups suggest Christianity is flourishing under the regime, but believers must be creative in finding places to worship, particularly in rural areas.

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended'Not Forgotten': The Top 50 Countries Where It's Most Difficult To Be A Christian
'Not Forgotten': The Top 50 Countries Where It's Most Difficult To Be A Christian
Open Doors says 2014 saw the worst persecution of Christians in the 'modern era'—but not because of violence.
TrendingThe 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century
The 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century
There is much to learn from some key trends in the last 100 years of church history.
Editor's PickWhy Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials
Why Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials
The reasons are rooted in history.
Comments
Christianity Today
Capital Closures in Myanmar
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.