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Burma's Christians

The country's displaced minorities maintain their distinctive faith.

Since one of Adoniram Judson's first converts, the Karen evangelist Ko Tha Byu, introduced the gospel to his people group in the mid-nineteenth century, several ethnic minorities in Burma, also known as Myanmar, have become largely Protestant.

Even in Ko Tha Byu's day, the government—a monarchy—was hostile to non-Buddhists. The situation for minorities is desperate, as they face both extreme poverty and a destructive regime.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the country is mostly ethnic Burman, with a third of the population belonging to other ethnic groups. Most estimate that the Burmese population is 4% Christian (mostly Baptists and Catholics).

Within specific ethnic groups, however, the proportion can be much higher. Chin Duh Kam, pastor of Chin Baptist Mission Church, executive minister of Chin Baptist Fellowship of America, says the majority of Burmese Chin are Christian.

Those smaller groups have been displaced, with many Burmese remaining in the country even after their villages are flattened by the military regime (officially, the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC) and some crossing the borders into Malaysia, Thailand, China, and other countries.

Chin Duh Kam says that many people equate certain ethnicities with Christianity, but Burmese Christians still mark their homes and communities with the symbol of Christ's death. In Chin State, some communities erected large crosses on hillsides. The SPDC has torn many of them down and conscripted Chin laborers to build Buddhist pagodas in their place, said Kam.

For security reasons, none of the people who could be identified from these images is currently in Myanmar.

Click here to view the slideshow.

Related Elsewhere:

Previous Christianity Today articles on Myanmar and the Burmese people include:

Christians and the Burmese Crackdown | A Burmese Pastor speaks on the situation of the church. (October 5, 2007)
'Destroy the Christian Religion' | Campaign against Christians presses problem with refugee resettlement. (March 14, 2007)
The Town that Loves Refugees | Christians in Utica, New York are resettling the world one displaced soul at a time. (February 15, 2007)
Red-Light Rescue | The 'business' of helping the sexually exploited help themselves. (December 19, 2006)
Homeland Security's Catch-22 for Exiles | 'Ridiculous' interpretation of law bars thousands. (May 1, 2006)
Burma's Almost Forgotten | Christians find themselves battered by the world's longest civil war and a brutally repressive regime. (March 1, 2004)

Christian History & Biography's spring 2006 issue was about Adoniram and Ann Judson, the first missionaries to the Burmese people.

Previous slideshows are available in our hot topics section.

Photographs by Chris Robinson, Marisa Herrera, J.-L. Gao, Jon Lunsford, Kimberly Iverson, Eduardo Oliveira, Stephen G. Woo, Michael Foley, and Niccolo Tempini are available on Flickr.

Stephen G. Woo made two videos (Chinese language) about the student and teacher who live in Burma from slide 8.

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