– International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on February 13, Pastor U Thar Tun was taken from his home in Buthidaung township, Rakhine State, by members of the Arakan Army (AA), a Buddhist rebel group. According to his wife, Daw Hla Sein, the insurgent group initially demanded that they leave their home to talk, so the family complied with the orders. However, the insurgents then tied up the pastor and dragged him away. She soon informed the local authorities and the police are now investigating the abduction.
U Thar Tun, the 50-year-old pastor of Mara Evangelical Church, is from the Myo ethnic group, one of the most common minority groups from Rakhine State, Myanmar. The father of five received his theological education from Mizoram State in India. He has been serving as a pastor in his church for many years and, although his church could not financially support him, he still takes a leadership role in church activities. He is also involved in local community development.
A colleague from the area told ICC, “He is innocent and actively involved in social and ethnic Myo people activities. He acts with truth and love for the oppressed people and he also protects them. Even though there is only [a] slim chance, I would like to request his immediate release from the people who had taken him. He is a valued member of our community.”
His congregation and fellow Myo people are very concerned about his disappearance. Some locals believe that he will not be coming back.
The fighting between the Burmese Army and the AA resumed last December. AA is a Buddhist rebel group known for its intolerance of other religious groups, particularly Muslims and Christians. A month ago, Pastor Tun Nu from Rakhine State’s Sittwe District was also abducted by the AA and his death was confirmed earlier this month.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “While a lot of attention has been paid to the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine State, it is alarming to see Christian persecution on the rise in the area. We urge the Burmese government to negotiate the release of Pastor U Thar Tun, given that his life is at risk in the hands of the Arakan Army. This evil act cannot be tolerated or ignored.”