Myanmar (CAM) — Desperation in Myanmar is growing – the number of displaced people went above 1 million for the first time ever last year, and it has only continued to climb.
Military conflict in the first three weeks of March increased the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by nearly 100,000, bringing the total since the February 2021 military coup to 1.76 million IDPs, according to a coalition of international aid groups.
Native Christian workers helped by Christian Aid Mission are one of the worst-hit areas are risking their lives to help meet needs.
“At least once a week, we can hear explosions, killing, gunfire exchange or villages torched around us,” a worker said. “People from surrounding villages fled to us. We distributed food items, shelters and basic medicines to the displaced. We gave cash to those who lost everything because their houses were burned to ashes.”
“At least once a week, we can hear explosions, killing, gunfire exchange or villages torched around us.”
Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes to fighting among the military, armed resistance to the coup and insurgent groups.
“Villagers from one area where at least 70 houses were burned fled to us,” the worker said. “We gathered the most needy people and distributed food items and clothing. I had the privilege to share a short message and prayed for them.”
In another town, workers provided a pastor cash to assist two church members who had lost their homes, he said.
“The town is empty; half of it is occupied by the military, and the other half by a local armed group,” the ministry leader said. “Many houses were burned and destroyed by bombs.”
One villager lost his house and all his belongings when his house was burned down, the leader said.
“The next day he went to see his house, and while he was returning, he had an accident with other people on his motorbike,” he said. “He needed to pay for the other people’s medical treatment in a hospital. Our pastor went to pray for him and give him cash as a token of our sorrow with him. All of his villagers are displaced, because the village has been a battleground many times.”
The ministry saw at least five of its church buildings destroyed in an area where workers provided aid to three families in one village and two families in another, the leader said.
“We lost at least five churches, and all the members are scattered all over,” he said. “It’s very sad to see their villages are empty, churches covered by dust and grass.”
Peace amid Chaos
The social and economic chaos in the wake of the military coup includes bank restrictions, closed schools, arbitrary arrests and rapes.
As the military views aid to victims in some areas as support for the resistance, at times workers have to rely on their network of contacts to channel help.
“We have to use different people to help them,” the leader of another native ministry said. “Recently we were able to help more than 50 families from these places. It takes time, and it is a very difficult job.”
Justice is hard to find in any given place, and many people feel oppressed as well as deprived, he said.
“Spiritually, physically, mentally, they are down,” he said. “The children are crying because they are thirsty and hungry. In that situation, we can help. A small bag of medicine and rice speaks to most people. When we help them, they think, ‘There is concern for us; it is from God.’”
Such aid opens hearts to hear the gospel. The leader of another native ministry said he was recently able to provide rice and cooking oil as well as God’s Word to 43 needy families.
“Most of the people are very weak physically because of lack of nutrition,” he said. “We shared the love of God and the salvation of God by singing as well as by preaching.”
Workers were able to organize a three-day evangelistic camp among the internally displaced earlier this year, he said. Each day between 130 to 150 adults and 50 to 75 children attended.
“It was wonderful that the Lord brought more than we expected,” the leader said. “As there was no place to use, we just divided into two groups, as adults and children. One of our graduating students also shared his powerful testimony for around 30 minutes every day.”
People are more interested in the gospel than before the coup, he said.
“Whenever we visited them with relief work before, they would not listen to what we shared for more than 45 minutes,” he said. “But this time they seemed to want to hear more. After the meetings, they stayed back and asked some questions about their lives and about religion and the living God. I strongly believe that God will continue to work in their hearts as they have heard the gospel truth.”
Native workers are bringing the love of Christ to desperate people throughout Myanmar. Please consider how you can come alongside to equip and encourage them.