Burma (MNN) — Years after the Rwandan genocide, many Westerners were awestruck as they watched the film, "Hotel Rwanda." How could so many people have died? How could no one have done anything?
For anyone who has ever wished they could go back in time and be a voice for the voiceless then, here is that chance.
The conflict may be resolved in Rwanda, but genocide itself is far from over. Hundreds of miles northwest of Rwanda in Burma, ethnic cleansing has wiped out half a million people already.
"It seems like what's happening is that the Burmese government is trying to wipe out anybody that doesn't agree with them–especially these tribal people because they're sitting on land that they [the government] want because they need the natural resources to sell to China and to other surrounding countries. So instead of moving the people and then compensating them, it's easier to just wipe them out," explains Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders.
Reports indicate that between 500,000 and 600,000 people have been killed in the genocide so far, and over 4,300 villages have been wiped out. Children are being used as mine sweepers, women are raped, men are killed; the U.N. has even labeled the violence as genocide. And yet the international community has remained suspiciously silent.
International media has, for the most part, covered very little of the atrocities taking place daily in what is now known as Myanmar. Klein says local news outlets are often completely unaware that genocide is taking place. International news sources appear to know about the issue, but simply are not covering it, says Klein.
"We tried to talk to one lady from a reputable international news source, and she said, ‘This is not new; this has been going on for years.' And we said, ‘But half a million people have died.' And she said, ‘The American people don't want to hear about this right now.'"
The church has generally been just as disinterested in discussing the topic.
Vision Beyond Borders (VBB) has been doing all they can to help the particularly marginalized Karen people of Burma. Mostly this entails helping Karen refugees who have fled to Thailand, 15,000 of whom streamed in over just the last few weeks.
VBB is in touch with churches inside of Burma as well and takes all the opportunities they can to smuggle in clothes and Bibles.
40 percent of the Karen are Christians, and their numbers are growing daily. In a VBB documentary, an orphanage director notes that refugees have literally no other hope besides Christ. VBB and its affiliates teach everyone they can about Christ and His love for them, even when the church is slow in response.
Many are coming to Christ, and praise is in order for that. Still though, no one can blame the Karen for wondering why God's people are choosing not to respond.
"Their cry has been, ‘Where is the world? And where is the church? Where are our brothers and sisters in Christ? How come they're not helping us?'"
There is nothing anyone can do about the Rwandan genocide. It's over and done. But millions of people are suffering daily at the hands of an oppressive government today, being slaughtered without cause. A few are responding, and you can join them.
There are several ways that you can help. First, educate yourself on the issue. Watch VBB's documentary (with Kirk Cameron) at their Web site, or order the DVD to show to your small group or church. Contact your local news media and alert them to the situation. Call your senators and state representatives. You can get directly involved with immediate aid by sending money, ointments, band-aids, clothes, toys, rice and toiletries. Click here to donate funds, or contact VBB to see what would be most helpful for you to send.
Above all, pray. Pray for God to deliver the oppressed and helpless people of Burma, especially His people. Take the challenge of praying for the Karen for a month using VBB's 30-day prayer guide. You may find yourself using it month after month as you fall in love with these faithful and incredibly strong believers. Consider praying as a family, with a small group, or as a church as often as you can for our suffering brothers and sisters.