Burma (MNN) — A year ago, a Burmese citizen could be arrested for mentioning the name of their beloved, "The Lady." A year later, she has been voted into parliament.
Aung San Suu Kyi won one of 44 seats open in the Burmese parliament on Monday. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won at least 40 or the seats being contested.
Although the NLD hardly has control of the government, these election results are a game-changing feat. Burma's government has oppressed its people for years. The nation is home to the Karen genocide, as well as the Kachin conflict.
Until last year, the military had maintained rule for decades. "Soldiers were accused by rights groups of dragging civilians to the front line in multiple wars with rebels in the north and east, of raping women and subjecting men even in their 70s to forced labor," summarizes the Associated Press.
Suu Kyi herself was on house arrest until last year. But over the last 12 months, change has seemingly been swelling within the government.
"We've been asking people to pray because the situation was hopeless, and I believe we're seeing God move on behalf of these people," says Dyann Romeijn with Vision Beyond Borders. "It isn't finished, but I believe a move has started."
Far from believing it's finished, some even speculate that the government is just using Suu Kyi and the NLD as a way to get the approval of the West. The elections were fair, but rumors have been flying for months that the government only seems to be changing for the economic benefits of the West.
"Until there's true freedom of religion and true freedom, there's still a lot of changes to take place," says Romeijn. "But it is a step in the right direction, and a larger step than we ever anticipated we'd see from this government."
Romeijn adds, "It's hard to know exactly what this government is trying to do, but what it has done is increase the hope of the people."
Romeijn believes this hope could translate into church growth. She says it's likely that in coming days, more and more will turn to Christ.
"I think we will see an increase in Christianity. We're already seeing it," Romeijn notes. "We were actually able to, when we were there, go into a Buddhist monastery. The monks are very open to the Gospel. They've seen their government–which is a Buddhist government–oppress the people, kill the people. And they've seen the Christians come in and help the children, help the orphans, and help the widows, and do the work that the church is supposed to do."
If they really are freer to worship as they please in coming days, they may take the risk to follow Christ.
Of course, freedom of religion does not exist yet. Just last month, the government raided a church, held a pastor at gunpoint, and burned Bibles, says Romeijn. Continued prayers, along with funding for groups working in Burma, will be the answer to reform.