Christian Leaders Back Myanmar Monks

Christian leaders expressed solidarity for Myanmar's pro-democracy monks who mobilized tens of thousands of citizens this week for their non-violent protests.

The head of the Anglican church in Myanmar, also known as Burma, said he is praying for the country as thousands take to the streets of the capital, Yangon, to demonstrate against the government.

"We pray for peace and the future of the country," said Anglican archbishop Samuel San Si Htay, according to Ecumenical News International.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Thailand-based Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Prawate Khid-arn, praised the positive role the monks played in helping people "to overcome the inhumane conditions to which they have been subjected for a long time."

Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia and has one of the world's worst religious freedom records. The military regime, which has ruled the country since 1988, is accused of sanctioning sexual violence against women of ethnic minorities as well as ordering crosses and churches destroyed.

Nearly half of the reported cases documented against women of the Chin ethnic minority were gang rapes, and at least a third were committed by officers, according to U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

"These horrors are being sanctioned by the state in Burma," said Cheery Zahau, a spokesperson for the Women's League of Chinland, in a released statement. "How can the civilized world accept this junta among their ranks? And how can countries like India and China be arming these rapists?"

The Chin population in Burma is about 90 percent Christian and is severely persecuted by Burma's traditionally pro-Buddhist military regime.

Smaller protests led by Buddhist monks began since Aug. 19, but it was the massive 100,000-people demonstration on Monday that propelled Myanmar into the international spotlight. Monday's protest was the biggest demonstration since a pro-democracy uprising in 1988.

"The open dissent and the bold marches of people across the cities is a clear sign that people are not willing to conform to the might of the military dictators," said CCA's Prawate in a letter to the Myanmar Council of Churches.

"The liberative spirituality of Buddhism and other religions is a positive non-violent counter force to transform the principalities, powers and demonic forces which have overtaken your country for decades," he added.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches in Malaysia, said he hopes the protests will lead to a "new era of democracy and peace" in Myanmar, according to ENI.

Myanmar's entire population is composed of 89 percent Buddhist and about four percent Christians.

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