International human rights organisations have expressed concern for two pastors missing since 24 December in Myanmar.

Ethnic Kachin live in Shan as well as Kachin State, and the two Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) men had taken reporters to a Catholic church damaged by airstrikes in clashes between the government army and ethnic militias, reports RFA.

Armed conflicts in both states intensified late last year when the Northern Alliance of four ethnic militias launched coordinated attacks on government and military targets in northern Shan. In Kachin, Christians account for at least 34% of the population.

Relationships between the Kachin and the military are also strained by the slow progress in identifying and prosecuting perpetrators of the many documented cases of sexual abuse by Myanmar troops in the region. (Two KBC women teachers were raped and murdered two years ago.)

“The apparent enforced disappearance of these two [latest] Christian leaders has created a climate of fear and terror in northern Shan State,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive of Fortify Rights, which, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has appealed for information on the two men.

Myanmar is 28th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians are most under pressure for their faith. Latest government figures show that half of Myanmar’s three million Christians live in the states of Shan, Kachin and Chin.