Burma Christian Persecution: at Least 10 Killed in Grenade Attack on Orphange
At least 10 people were killed and more than two dozen injured in a grenade attack at an orphanage in a primarily Christian region in northern Burma on Sunday.
The attack, which occurred in Myitkyinar, Kachin State, happened as a study group was taking place inside the orphanage, increasing the number of casualties, according to reports.
Three buildings burned as a result of the bombing, according to Mizzima, a news organization run by Burmese journalists in Delhi, India.
It is unclear why the orphanage was attacked, but the region has been plagued with increasing violence targeting Burma's Christian minority.
In October, Burmese military officials beat and arrested five men, including Pastor Jan Ma Aung Li of the Catholic Association, according to Mizzima. The men were later released.
Christians also have been forbidden to build new churches, had religious symbols – such as crosses – removed by the military and food and homes confiscated by officials, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
More recently, new restrictions were placed on the region's Christians, restricting their ability to worship, hold Bible studies and pray. Christians are now required to submit a written request at least 15 days in advance prior to reading the Bible or worshiping, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious freedom watchdog group.
More than 30,000 people from Kachin State have been displaced since renewed fighting began in June between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese military, Eurasia Review reported. The KIO is made up of residents of the mostly-Christian autonomous region in Burma.
The continued violence and addition of new restrictions against the nation's Christian minority continues to grab the attention of watchdog groups as well as governments around the world.
"It appears that despite changes in rhetoric, there has been no change of attitude, particularly at a local level, on the part of Burmese authorities to religious minorities," Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader for CSW, previously said. "Burma is already regarded as one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom, and is one of the US State Department's Countries of Particular Concern."
Burma – largely for religious intolerance and other abuses – shares a place on the State Department's list with China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.
"The right to believe or not to believe, without fear of government interference or restriction, is essential to human dignity," the State Department said on its website in reference to Burma.
The attack comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent assertion that the U.S. was ready to become a partner with Burma if the Asian country takes steps to reform.
"Many questions remain, including the government's continued detention of political prisoners and whether reform will be sustained and extended to include peace and reconciliation in the ethnic minority areas," Clinton previously said. "Should the government pursue genuine and lasting reform for the benefits of its citizens, it will find a partner in the United States."
It is unclear how the Burmese government will handle the recent attacks.
The country's official newspapers did not include reports on the incident at the orphanage, Reuters reported.