Reconstruction of ‘Banned’ Christian Building Attempted in Chin State
26 October 2012: The Zomi Baptist Convention (ZBC) came to a conclusion during its recent meeting, saying it will try to find ways of resuming construction of the Zogam Prayer Mountain Building, which was banned in the mid-2000s by Burma’s military authorities.
ZBC’s Board of Management meeting unanimously passed an agenda proposed by Siyin Region Baptist Association (SRBA) in collaboration with Yangon Siyin Baptist Church to reconstruct the building structure of Zogam Prayer Mountain near Taingen village of Tedim Township, Chin State.
The Chin Christian building designed in the shape of a cross, whose construction was started reportedly in 2005 in commemoration of the first Chin converts, Pu Pau Suan and Pu Thuam Hang following a centenary celebration of Chin Christianity held at Khuasak village in 2004.
“It was a very important memorial monument that Chin Christians would like to construct on the sacred mountain top. Unfortunately, Burma’s military authorities ordered the construction to be stopped after its foundation had been laid and building structures erected,” said one of the Chin pastors.
The Chin pastor, whose name is kept anonymous, added: “Now that we have a new government that embraces democratic changes, we believe we will be granted permission to continue construction of Christian buildings and churches in our land.”
However, detailed information as to how re-construction of the Zogam Mountain Prayer Building will be carried out in line with legal requirements under Thein Sein’s government still remains unknown.
On the 15th of this month, another meeting was held at the Siyin Baptist Church in Taingen village, where the General Secretary and Central Committee members of ZBC as well as the General Secretary of SRBA had discussions over the reconstruction of the building structure, according to the Tongsan news.
The Tongsan news said the attendees after their meeting visited the building site on the mountain top and held a prayer service.
Meanwhile, a report released last month by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) documented evidence of the ongoing violations of religious freedom and widespread restrictions on constructing and renovating Christian infrastructure under both the previous and current governments of Burma.
As a result of human rights violations perpetrated against the Chin by the military regime, CHRO said an estimated 200,000 Chins have fled Burma over the past two decades, with about 50,000 Chin refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, 12,000 in New Delhi and as many as 100,000 living in Mizoram State of India.
Through the teaching of the American missionary couple, Rev. A.E. Carson and wife Laura with the help of Karen Christian teachers, who first arrived in Chinland in 1899, Pu Pau Suan and his wife, Kham Ciang, and Pu Thuam Hang and his wife, Dim Kho Cing, converted into Christianity as the first Chin believers in 1904.
Founded in 1953 under the leadership of Rev. S.T. Hau Go, the Zomi Baptist Convention, the largest Christian organization in Chin State, has as of last year over 200,000 members, with 899 churches, and 28 associations as well as 6 local churches based in Rangoon.
Reporting by Salai Nyein Chian with Thawng Zel Thang