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.
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.