Wa army seizes Chris­tian re­li­gious lead­ers in Shan

The United Wa State Army said it has ar­rested sev­eral Chris­tian lead­ers for al­legedly try­ing to desta­bilise their ter­ri­tory by es­pous­ing re­li­gious ex­trem­ism.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - CHAN THAR chan­thar@mm­times.com

AN armed eth­nic group seized a group of Chris­tian re­li­gious lead­ers in the Wa au­ton­o­mous re­gion in Shan State for al­legedly desta­bil­is­ing the area, a spokesman for the group said.

U Nyi Rang, spokesper­son for the United Wa State Army (UWSA), said their group is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the re­li­gious lead­ers, whom it ac­cused of es­pous­ing re­li­gious ex­trem­ism.

“We are try­ing to con­trol the in­sta­bil­ity in the re­gion caused by ex­trem­ist un­reg­is­tered re­li­gious lead­ers from out­side (Wa ter­ri­tory),” he said. “Such ac­tions are nec­es­sary as we pre­pare to cel­e­brate the 30th an­niver­sary of the cease­fire on April 17 next year. No ex­trem­ism is al­lowed in the area.”

U Nyi Rang said the group is check­ing whether the ar­rested re­li­gious lead­ers have valid per­mits and are al­lowed to con­duct re­li­gious ac­tiv­i­ties.

“I heard that some churches were de­mol­ished that had been built with­out the ap­proval of the UWSA cen­tral com­mit­tee, but I have no more in­for­ma­tion yet,” he added.

“The rea­son the churches were closed can­not be re­vealed yet,” said U Nyi Rang.

Most of the peo­ple liv­ing in Wa ter­ri­tory wor­ship Nats [spir­its], but there are also Bud­dhists, Bap­tists, and Ro­man Catholics.

The Wa are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Chris­tian lead­ers be­cause they are not real Chris­tians but ex­trem­ists, ac­cord­ing to Rev­erend Hkalam Sam­son, chair of the Kachin Bap­tist Group, which prac­tices in Pangh­sang town in the ter­ri­tory.

“We freely en­gage in re­li­gious ac­tiv­ity in the area, but these lead­ers have been ar­rested for al­legedly burn­ing down tra­di­tional Nat stat­ues that Wa peo­ple wor­ship,” he said. “The churches of these lead­ers have been closed.”

Sam­son said there are about 40 Bap­tist and Ro­man Catholic churches in Wa ter­ri­tory.

Wa law states that mem­bers of any reli­gion can wor­ship freely in the ter­ri­tory. How­ever, the spread of re­li­gious pro­pa­ganda had caused mis­un­der­stand­ings, so Wa lead­ers de­cided to take ac­tion at the be­gin­ning of this month, said U Nyi Rang.

Seven­teen eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties live in Wa ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing the Wa, Akhar, Lahu, Kachin, Shan, Myanmar, Chi­nese and Kokant. Un­der the 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion, the Wa self-ad­min­is­tered re­gion in Shan State in­cludes six town­ships – Hopan, Mine Maw, Pang­waing, Narh­pan, Met­man and Pangh­sang – in two dis­tricts.

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