A human rights organization recently denounced an attack by Myanmar's military as a "war crime." Myanmar troops reportedly burned down an entire village, including a local church.
According to Radio Free Asia, the attack took place Wednesday afternoon as the military attacked Rialti village in the Chin State capital of Hakha. Troops continued the onslaught Thursday morning by setting buildings ablaze, including Rialti Village Baptist Church.
"This morning, it was the church and our warehouse — those two were set on fire earlier this morning, and at about 9 a.m., the remaining three houses," a leader from the church told Radio Free Asia.
"All were gone in a short while," he added. "The whole village, including the church, was set on fire. Eight houses were torched yesterday. In all, 13 buildings, including the church, were destroyed."
Many residents fled to nearby forested hills after the military's arrival on Wednesday and watched their village burn down from afar.
"We see this as a war crime because wherever they go, they focus on wherever there are large numbers of people – it's a deliberate violation of religious freedom," Salai Za Op Lin, deputy executive director of the India-based Chin Human Rights Organization, said.
Earlier this year, the Myanmar military staged a coup on Feb. 1 and overthrew the National League for Democracy government, contending that the party stole the country's election last November based on voter fraud.
According to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, they have also reacted violently to anti-coup protests, arresting 7,308 people and killing at least 1,171 others.
Last week, the anti-junta Chin Defense Force militia, an armed group created to combat the Myanmar military, attacked a military convoy of about 40 vehicles and two tanks headed towards Hakha from Falam township.
Residents noted that troops later set up camp in the nearby village of Rialti and began setting buildings on fire. The junta military, or ruling military, has often faced accusations of sexual violence, oppression of civilians and vandalizing houses of worship.
Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia, is ranked No. 18 on Open Doors USA's list of countries where Christians face the most persecution. The watchdog notes that Myanmar is driven by Buddhist religious nationalism, which excludes all other religions.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, a Myanmar youth pastor was fatally shot last month after trying to help one of his congregants escape a burning home after armed forces set it ablaze.
Photo courtesy: Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.