‘It hurts us in our hearts’—church of 600+ burned to ground in Myanmar

June 29, 2022 by Noah Cassetto in Asia

On Friday, June 9, Myanmar soldiers set fire to Thantlang Baptist Church, one of the biggest churches in the country. Nobody was injured, but the attack has left believers in Thanthlang shaken.

“Such news has shattered their joy,” says Teresa*, a local Open Doors partner. “For some, their hatred toward the military deepened, some are mourning their losses, some question why God allowed these [things] to happen, while some look to God for hope and assurance.” 

More than 600 families regularly attend Thantlang Baptist Church, making it the largest in Chin State and one of the largest in Myanmar. With such a large congregation, it is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious churches in the state and a prominent church in the Myanmar Christian community. 

Since the February 2021 military coup, the Myanmar military junta has ruled violently, attacking innocent civilians indiscriminately and terrorizing citizens. Christians have been hit particularly hard. More than 1,200 homes and 11 churches have been set on fire in Thantlang, alone.  

For believers in Thanthlang, it’s one special place after the other: On October 29, 2021, the Thantlang Baptist Church Office and Quarter Hall were burnt. Just a few weeks later, on December 17, the church’s Christian Community Hall, a dormitory, kitchen and prayer room were hit. On December 30, a memorial hall, a meeting hall, a guest house and reception hall were all razed to the ground by the regime troops. 

It’s difficult for residents of Thantlang to live through such danger, especially when it comes without warning. People regularly have to flee their homes at a moment’s notice when they hear that the military could be coming through. 

Kima*, a local believer, fled Thantlang and has been living as a refugee for some time since the coup. He recalls that soldiers have visited their places so often, that their next steps have almost become automatic: “When we hear that soldiers are approaching our village, we gather whatever we can carry and flee to the jungle. Sometimes we stay until nightfall, sometimes for many days. When we hear that the soldiers have left, we return to our homes. We see they have ransacked our houses and take whatever they want. When the soldiers started burning our houses and the church, we knew we have to run. It is not safe for us anymore.” 

One of the most difficult parts of these attacks is how they devalue resources, time and life. Zuala* is a resident of Thantlang who is now living as a refugee. Zuala laments, “We have worked hard, we contributed money, we worked and built the church with our own hands, our church is precious to us. When we see it being destroyed and burned, it hurts us right in our hearts. It’s painful. If your church was burnt, will you not feel the same?” 

Many locals from Thantlang have built temporary shelters using bamboo, wood and tarpaulin. According to our local partner Teresa*, Open Doors partners are looking to help believers with their shelters before the monsoon begins. 

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Let’s lift up our Myanmar brothers and sisters in prayer. Pray that God would restore what has been destroyed and that the Myanmar church would remain unshaken. Praise God that no one was injured in the attack; ask that God would continue to protect believers. Finally, let’s pray that God would bring peace to Myanmar.