Burma (MNN) — A couple of months ago, Burma appeared to be turning a new leaf. The brutal military rule had finally given way to a civilian government. Desire for reform seemed genuine.
That was October. In early November, several reports came in from Burma about attacks on Christians by the Burmese government.
The back and forth between true reform versus years-old genocide has been confusing over the past few months, and it's been difficult to know whether or not the nation is really ready for change. But a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has provided some hope.
Clinton is the first top U.S. official to visit Burma in 50 years. The Secretary of State had several reasons for her current visit, including a hope to see whether or not the nation is genuinely ready to change, to thus see if the U.S. could strengthen ties with Burma, to encourage the nation to sever ties with North Korea, and to urge an end to the country's genocide.
Vision Beyond Borders assists several refugee camps that are home to those who have fled Burma's ethnic cleansing. VBB's Dyann Romeijn says Clinton's visit is encouraging.
"They're not just talking about the changes that have occurred. They're also talking about more change that needs to happen, and that there needs to be an end to the violence and the ethnic cleansing that is going on," says Romeijn. "They're not just rewarding the government for the small steps that they've made, but encouraging them to take bigger steps to end the violence."
Still, after decades of painful oppression in Burma, could it really be ready to change? Romeijn says they're hopeful.
"We're cautiously optimistic that maybe there is change occurring in Burma. We have had opportunities to talk with our contacts there in Burma: they're cautiously optimistic as well," explains Romeijn.
"I don't think anybody knows exactly how this will go," she adds. "There are some changes. Aung San Suu Kyi has been released, and it looks like she will be running for office, and there are some encouraging things. But at the same time, attacks are occurring as well. So we're just cautiously optimistic."
If the government is ready for reform, it could mean a great deal of relief for persecuted believers. Romeijn says Aung San Suuu Kyi, a former Burmese leader and Nobel peace laureate, is rumored to be a Christian and may make it much easier for the Gospel to spread if she were to take office.
Change does seem to be in the air. The question is: how long will it linger?
At this point, Romeijn says the best thing to do is to pray. Pray for direction for the nation, its leaders, and ministry leaders. Pray that oppression would indeed be coming to an end. At the same time, pray for the safety of believers who are still being hunted by many. Pray that the Gospel would reign in Burma.
VBB has been working in and around Burma for years. To learn more about their outreach, visit visionbeyondborders.org.