Local Christians and rights groups believe the targeting is deliberate in the Buddhist-majority country.
Last August, a Myanmar Air Force fighter jet dropped two bombs on the village of Ramthlo in Myanmar’s Chin State. One bomb hit the spacious Ramthlo Baptist Church, blowing a gaping hole through its roof and covering the wooden pews with dust and debris. The other bomb damaged nearby houses, injuring seven people.
The bombings were originally reported by Khit Thit Media, one of the few independent news outlets in the country, and the nonprofit Myanmar Witness recently verified the attack using geolocation and digital data collection. The investigation confirmed claims that churches in Myanmar’s majority-Christian Chin State have faced extensive damage amid the current civil war.
This January, Myanmar Witness (a project of the UK-based Centre for Information Resilience) published a report analyzing 10 claims of physical damage to Chin churches between March and August 2023, most of which involved airstrikes. All of the incidents occurred in areas under martial law.
The Myanmar military has destroyed at least 107 religious buildings, including 67 churches, in Chin State since the military coup began nearly three years ago, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization. Elsewhere in the country, the destruction of houses of worship, including Buddhist temples and churches, is also growing. In mid-January, junta soldiers burned down a 129-year-old Catholic church in Sagaing Region.
While the Myanmar Witness report did not comment on whether the military is deliberately targeting churches, Chin Christians and rights activists believe it is. They claim the government sees churches as a symbol of Christian identity, a sanctuary for the resistance, and a haven for the displaced.
“The military pilots feel so free to …