Myanmar (MNN) — Following last week’s coup by the military, thousands of people in Myanmar have taken to the streets in massive protests and a nation-wide strike. Citizens, ranging from celebrity athletes to Buddhist monks, have demanded a return to democracy. The demonstrations have been relatively peaceful, with only a few injuries so far.
Military officials in Myanmar tried to justify the coup, claiming fraud in the November elections. However, an election committee looked into the matter and found no systemic voter fraud or errors. The military party suffered badly in the elections.
In light of the protests, General Min Aung Hlaing promised new elections and a return to civilian rule. But Mark Estes, Asia area and Haiti director for World Concern, says that promise doesn’t comfort locals very much. “From our national staff especially, there’s a deep sense of sadness, of remorse. Most of these people were around when the military regime was in power more than a decade ago. Over these past 10 years, I think there’s been a lot of hope in Myanmar. There’s been a lot of progress in many ways. But now we seem to be taking a significant step backward.”
Many have concerns the military will mistreat ethnic and religious minorities, as they did the Rohingya in 2017. Estes says World Concern is largely staffed with people of these minorities, including Christians and a few Muslims.
World Concern’s work
World Concern works to share the love of Jesus through both word and deed, especially in remote areas. Despite the coup and concurring chaos, they continue to do just that in Myanmar. Estes says, “We’re trying to reach people with the Gospel through practical, life-saving ways because that’s our mission. But it is going to be interesting this year to see what evolves from this transition.”
The military cut off the internet to parts of the country during the coup, though it has been restored for the most part. So far, World Concern has been able to maintain communication with their Myanmar team.
How to pray
Estes encourages readers to pray for the Church in Myanmar. “There are a significant number of Christians throughout the country, especially among the ethnic minority groups. There are over 100 different ethnic minority groups, different language groups, and a lot of those do represent religious minorities. A significant number of Christians live among them.”
Pray God would strengthen all of these Christians during this difficult time. Pray they would have wisdom in how to move forward with worship and ministry despite the coup and the protests.
The header photo shows a boat in the delta region of Myanmar, where World Concern has worked since Cyclone Nargis in 2008. (Photo courtesy of World Concern)