Escalating violence could threaten progress

By March 25, 2013

Burma (MNN) — Violence could threaten so-called "progress" in Burma. The country is under a state of emergency following rising unrest between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in central Burma.

"It's just continual upheaval for the people over there, and there's little protection for them from their government," says Dyann Romeijn of Vision Beyond Borders (VBB).

At least 20 people have been killed and more than 6,000 driven from their homes in Meikhtila, Burma. The conflict began Wednesday after a disagreement between a Muslim business owner and Buddhist customers quickly turned into a rampage.

Mobs are setting fire to mosques, homes, an Islamic religious school, and many businesses as thousands of minority Muslims take to the streets in fear. About a third of Meikhtila's 100,000 residents reportedly follow Islam, and before the violence started there were some 17 mosques in the city.

Concern grows as the scene begins looking more and more like last summer's violence in the Rakhine state. Sectarian violence between the Buddhist Rakhine people and the predominantly-Muslim Rohingya killed hundreds and displaced around 100,000 people.

When asked if the Meikhtila unrest could develop into a similar situation, Romeijn replies, "Absolutely. That's always possible in Burma. There have been over 2 million displaced over the last 25 years-30 years of the civil unrest."

Over the course of his presidency, Thein Sein has ushered in a series of reforms to move the country toward democracy. But in trying to change the face of Burma, Sein continues to face challenge after challenge. Along with the current unrest in Meikhtila, there's been an upsurge in fighting between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

Romeijn says that in recent days, "There were 2 churches that were burned to the ground in Kachin state, and there's been a lot of violence against the Christians."

Around 90% of the ethnic Kachin people are Christ-followers.

"Pray that that will have an influence on the Muslims, and the Buddhists, and the Animists, and those around them–that they will see the light of Jesus in the Kachin," requests Romeijn.

VBB works with partners on the ground in Burma to help refugees and orphans. You can help provide food, clothing, medicine, and the love of Christ by clicking here.

"Through all of the conflict and the genocide…it leaves a lot of orphans in that country, and so there's a lot of work to be done," Romeijn says.

Ask God to protect His people in Burma. Pray they would shine the light of Christ as they endure dark and troubled times.

"What the enemy means for harm, God can turn for good. Pray for protection for the people and that God would use that to reach many more," Romeijn asks.

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