Burma (MNN) — Years of violence and insecurity have caused these people groups to be grateful for any human compassion they receive. In the past decades, ceasefires have meant little to the government of Burma as their army persecutes the ethnic states Karen and Kachin. Recently, the events have escalated back to a violent height.
In a recent newsletter, Vision Beyond Borders describes the horrific events that occurred last November in the Kachin state. Eighteen civilians were captured, tortured, and murdered by the Burma Army.
We spoke with VBB’s Dyann Romeijn to get some more details on their work in Burma, how the conflict affects Christians, and what steps are being taken to confront the conflict.
“We work through native contacts there to establish ministries that are on the ground. And we work through them to support and help the work that they’re doing to reach their people,” Romeijn says.
They work inside the country with orphans, but also in refugee camps in the surrounding areas, including Thailand.
Last month, leaders of resistance groups met to discuss the possibility of establishing a nation-wide ceasefire with the government. Romeijn is not sure how much this will help: “The people don’t have a lot of trust in the government because they make these agreements to ceasefire–just like the Karen is currently under a ceasefire agreement with the government. But yet, what they’ve seen is that the government uses that time to actually come in to better fortify their positions and restock their supplies, and then they tend to escalate the conflict and begin the fighting over.”
The Kachin have also been under a ceasefire for many years, but now it is being ignored.
Across the board, Burma may appear to be making improvements, but Romeijn explains that it is not beneficial for everyone. “There has been some change in the government in Burma, and there has been some opening and some lessening of the oppression, of the persecution. But mainly it’s been for the main country of Burma. They’ve seen a lot of change. But as far as it goes for the ethnic groups, there hasn’t been a lot of real change for them.”
The Karen and Kachin states are predominantly Christian. However, among them there are many Buddhists and Animists. The attacks on the ethnic groups are not entirely religion-based. However the government does not like Christianity, and so it does play into the animosity between the government and the two states.
The strength of our brothers and sisters in Burma, despite the opposition, is certainly uplifting. “Just to see the way that God supports them, and to see their faith, to see their forgiveness for those who have persecuted them, was encouraging.”
So what can you do? Romeijn has a few suggestions. “We need to be praying for a change of heart in the leadership of Burma, that there would be a church age, a turning to God, that there would be peace there. You know, [the Bible says] that we’re to pray for the leaders of our own countries, but I believe it’s other countries as well.”
Pray for people’s eyes to be open to the truth, that the deception that operates here would be broken. Pray for the strength of believers and for the light of Christ to shine in such a dark country.
There are a few mission trips coming up for Burma this summer. If you’re interested in joining one, click here for more information.
Romeijn leaves us with the recognition of the reality of faith for our fellow believers in Burma. They have no expectations, no feeling of entitlement. Because of how they’ve been treated, their gratitude is so deep and so real. She explains that this gratitude has as much impact on missionaries as their compassion has on these groups of people.