UWSA Releases Lahu Pastors
More than 40 Christian students remain in detention, Lahu community representatives say.
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP
Friday, October 12, 2018
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has released “most” of the Lahu clergymen detained by the group, according to a UWSA spokesperson.
U Nyi Rang, the deputy in-charge of the UWSA’s liaison office in Lashio, northern Shan State, told NMG that 92 Lahu Christian religious leaders were allowed to return home on Thursday afternoon after they had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
“Most of them were released after an investigation. We had to make sure we had security and rule of law in our area before the 30th anniversary of peace,” he said, referring to the upcoming event marking 30 years since the UWSA signed a ceasefire with the Burmese government.
Unregulated missionary action had caused disunity and disagreement within the Wa community and among families, U Nyi Rang alleged.
“It’s enough to have one church in a village. There are very few residents in a village. There should not be two to three churches in a village. That’s why we tried to control it, for unity among locals,” he said.
The investigation, according to the United Wa State Party—the political wing of the UWSA—was carried out to identify “illegal” clergymen, religious extremists, and those violating Wa law.
Lahu Baptist Christian League general secretary Bishop Dr. Larzaru confirmed that more than 90 people were released on Thursday, but that 41 Bible students remain under investigation.
According to Dr. Larzaru, Lahu Christians cannot worship in churches, because the buildings had been closed down.
“Some Christian extremists arrived in the area. Wa and Kachin Christian clergymen had already been released. This week, they released the Lahu Christian clergy,” Dr. Larzaru said.
According to Dr. Larzaru, his community has been working for the release of the Bible students who are still in UWSA custody.
“We sent a letter again. We will negotiate in person if it’s needed. We hope they will release our students. Currently, we don’t know the situation. They should not do things like this,” the Bishop said.
The Lahu Baptist Christian League of eastern Shan State released a statement on September 25 calling for all Christians to pray for the release of the detainees. Fifty-two churches were reportedly forced to close in the Mong Pouk area, and three were destroyed. Bible schools in Ho Tawng were also allegedly shuttered, and Christian religious symbols destroyed.