Baptist pastor shot dead by unknown hitmen in Myanmar

A Baptist pastor has been killed in Myanmar's Kachin state, marking a severe escalation in the region's ongoing conflict. The 47-year-old pastor, associated with the Kachin Baptist Convention, was fatally shot in his computer shop by three unidentified assailants, according to a report.

Pastor Nammye Hkun Jaw Li from Mogaung township suffered gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen on Monday, UCA News reported. His death has intensified concerns in Kachin, a state already wracked by violence since a 2021 coup by the military, also known as the Tatmadaw.

He was not only a religious leader but also a prominent figure in local anti-military protests and community initiatives against drug addiction. He was involved with the KBC and the anti-drug group Pat Jasan in Kachin.

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The incident took place in a small town that witnessed significant unrest, where the local population bears the brunt of the conflict.

Mourning his loss, his family and local residents demanded justice, although they pointed to no group for the attack, UCA News said.

Many deaths and displacements have occurred in Kachin state since the military takeover. The area, with a significant Christian population, has seen religious tensions intertwine with political turmoil.

The arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Hkalam Samson, another Baptist leader, by the military reflects the increased risks faced by religious and community leaders in Kachin.

The actions of the Buddhist nationalist military against Christian units were particularly aggressive, with accusations of supporting rebel groups.

The conflict has seen the Kachin Independence Army gain ground against military forces, capturing strategic locations and disrupting military operations. Recent reactionary military offensives have indiscriminately targeted civilian areas, causing casualties and property damage.

The context of the conflict in Myanmar reveals a pattern of severe human rights abuses, especially in Christian-majority areas such as Kachin. The Tatmadaw's bombing of an internally displaced camp in October 2023, resulting in significant civilian casualties, exemplifies the brutal tactics employed.

The international community has scrutinized Myanmar's military for its relentless repression of civilians, particularly in regions with a strong Christian presence. The ongoing violence in Kachin, characterized by both military and insurgent actions, continues to destabilize the state, affecting thousands of lives and changing the social fabric of this troubled region.

Last September, the regional bloc Association of Southeast Asian Nations voted to remove Myanmar from its planned 2026 presidency, choosing the Philippines instead.

Although a majority of Myanmar's population is ethnic Burmese and Buddhist, the country is home to several ethnic and religious communities. About 20%-30% of the ethnic Karen are Christian, and in Chin State, where the majority of the population is Christian, the military finds an ideal environment for its operations.

The Tatmadaw has a history of persecuting these minority groups, including Rohingya Muslims and Christians, the US-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said earlier, explaining that their tactics include bombing civilian areas, torturous interrogations and attempts at forced conversion to Buddhism.

The long-term persecution caused many to flee Myanmar, seeking refuge in neighboring countries such as India and Thailand. Some have even moved as far away as the United States and Australia. However, many remain in refugee camps near the Myanmar border, facing decades of uncertainty.


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