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Concerns grow for vulnerable Kachin Christians trapped in jungle

South East Asia

Concerns grow for vulnerable Kachin Christians trapped in jungle

 

“Can you please pray for me too?” asks this 80-year-old Kachin Christian widow. Twice her house has been burnt down and now she lives far away in a displaced people’s camp. But even there the army have attacked. Photo credit: Barnabas Fund

Military authorities reportedly blocked a rescue plea as religious and community leaders raise concerns about the safety and survival of Kachin Christians trapped in a jungle region of Myanmar (Burma).

Over 2000 displaced Kachin people, including the elderly, infirm and pregnant women, have been trapped in the remote “Gold and Amber” region of the conflict-stricken Kachin State since April 11.

Local news sources report that heavy fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has led to thousands of people fleeing their homes as a decades-long, bitter civil war continues.

Christian and community leaders met government officials and a military commander to plead for humanitarian assistance and a rescue for the trapped civilians. However, at the time of reporting, the military has blocked any rescue efforts.

The trapped villagers need urgent humanitarian assistance such as food according to Rev. Je Di, pastor of Kachin Baptist Church in Tanai. He told local news sources, “Religious leaders and community leaders are not allowed to rescue the people, so we worry for their safety and daily survival.”

The United Nations is deeply concerned about reports of an escalation in armed conflict in several areas in Kachin since 7 April, saying the trapped Kachin people are “in a dire situation” and in “urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection.”

Although Western media has recently focused on the plight of Rohingya Muslims, ethnic minority Kachin Christians in Myanmar have been targeted for decades in what the government claims is a “campaign against Kachin separatist groups”. Two Kachin Christian refugees were found murdered 8 March this year. Human rights organisations stated that they were in the custody of Myanmar Army soldiers at the time of the execution style killings where the men were shot in the mouth.