Myanmar's Oppressed Minorities (Part 1)

Intensified violence against Rohingya Muslims has once again directed headlines towards Myanmar's oppression.  Each passing decade delivers new rounds of horror and international pleadings for peace.  The pleadings have fallen not on deaf ears, but rather on ears that seemingly delight in the victims' despairing cries.  And it is not just the Rohingya, but also a cascading list of Myanmar's ethnicities facing tyranny.  In this series, we glimpse at the persecutions of just a few.

Part 1: Karen Christians and Rohingya Muslims

Immigration policies and the refugee crisis spurred by the Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War have dominated headlines and further fractured the West's political divisions.*  Despite the U.S. public's recent attention on Muslim migrants, currently, the largest number of refugees in America are Karen Christians.  Converted by Baptist missionaries in the mid-1800s, Karen Christians live in Myanmar as both ethnic and religious minorities.  Over 90% of Myanmar's citizens are Buddhist.**  Now forced from their homelands and into refugee camps along the Thai border, the majority have settled in the Mae La refugee camp; operational for a gut-wrenching 25 years.

Myanmar's Rakhine State
Renewed large-scale violence against Rohingya Muslims has horrified witnesses and drained international aid organizations of already depleted medicines.  Though living in Myanmar's Rakhine state for generations, the Rohingya; already persecuted, had their citizenship revoked in 1982. Increasingly treated as enemy invaders, many Rohingya are chased from their burning villages and towards the Myanmar-Bangladesh border where they must cross land mine covered grounds and the Naf River just to reach relative safety in Bangladesh.  Accelerating towards genocide, the situation has been made all the more hopeless due to the complacency of Myanmar's current leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.  Her denial of the atrocities mirrors that of the former military junta she spent her lifetime protesting.  Many believe she is either unable to stop the military or actually supports the violence as a way of providing stability and ending attacks from Rohingya militant groups; which itself has killed and displaced Buddhist and Hindu citizens.

In a nation in which over 90% of the population is beholden to a different religion, it might be easy to assume that Myanmar persecutes Christians and Muslims simply for their religious beliefs.  As we will see in Part 2, however, the military's persecution extends even to those who worship the same deities.

Thanks for Reading.

*See: Brexit and the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
**It is a unique form of Buddhism that combines with the region's older animist (spirit worship) religious views.

Image attributions:
1. Myanmar Map: By ASDFGHJ - Own work, Public Domain,
2. Myanmar's Rakhine State Map: By TUBS - Own workThis vector graphics image was created with Adobe Illustrator. This file was uploaded with Commonist. This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this: Myanmar location map.svg (by Uwe Dedering)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

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