Burma (MNN) — Significant changes have begun to take place in Burma over the last year, but war and oppression are far from over.
Although just two years ago it was considered almost impossible that Aung San Suu Kyi would be released from house arrest, that people would be allowed to download media, that political prisoners would be released or that the regime would sign peace agreements with ethnic minorities, all of this has happened in the last year. Yet when Aung San Suu Kyi was asked how, on a scale from one to ten, she ranked the current democracy in Burma, she answered, "We are on the way to one."
There is much work to be done. Partners Relief and Development is dedicated to assisting desperate Burmese citizens until they are no longer needed. But Partners founder Steve Gumaer says as of now, that day is still years away.
"In Burma as a whole, even though there are moves toward reform, the country's still at war," says Gumaer. The nation is engaged in the single longest-lasting civil war on the planet, he notes. Although things have gotten better for the Karen people, Burmese living in Kachin state, for example, remain desperate.
As a result of disturbing warfare that has directly targeted certain Burmese ethnic groups, thousands of people–including many from Kachin–are displaced within Burma or have been forced to flee to refugee camps in nearby nations. Several Mission Network News partner groups bring aid to these refugee camps, but Partners has a unique ministry focus.
"The thing that would make us different is that our staff are actually inside the areas of conflict, helping those people who are on the run see that our God of love is alive and well," says Gumaer. In other words, Partners Relief & Development is directly in the war zones.
Partners uses nationals to reach nationals in order to accomplish this dangerous work. The aid that they provide includes medical support for as many as 7,000 annually at eight clinics, care for thousands of children, agricultural assistance, and direct relief aid. Regardless of the danger associated with the work they're doing–some of which is illegal, Partners is dedicated to bringing hope to this hopeless people.
"Our first priority is to be faithful to the Gospel, and that has led us to embrace the moral obligation to essentially break laws," notes Gumaer. "I guess that's one of the things that makes us unique when you talk about helping Internally Displaced People: we're not doing it on a diplomatic scale. We're actually on the ground with these people during their crisis, attempting to bring hope and love to bear, while at the same time making Jesus a person by giving them shelter, food, and the essential provisions that they and their children need."
Partners has been doing this work for nearly 20 years. Gumaer and his wife first got a heart for the suffering, war-torn people of Burma when they were serving as missionaries in Thailand. When they visited a Burmese refugee camp, they discovered it would cost only $30 to support an orphaned girl who had then gone to live with an equally abused widow, for an entire year. Within that first year, they went from helping one child to helping 42. Now they're up to 87,000.
Partners has a host of ways for people to get involved with providing aid and, most importantly, the Gospel for those still suffering in Burma. To learn more about their work or to have a $30 gift quadrupled, click here.