Burma (MNN) — Fresh attacks from Burma’s army are putting more lives on the line in Kachin state. Over Skype, Steve Gumaer of Partners Relief and Development tells us, “These are not attacks between two armies. They are the Burma army attacking civilian populations to remove them.”
Partners recently heard from their cohorts on-the-ground in Kachin state that around 2,000 villagers were recently forced to flee their homes. They joined another 600 or so displaced a few weeks ago, pushing the total number of newly-displaced Kachin families over the 10,000 mark.
“The majority of these people are now in temporary camps on the China border,” explains Gumaer. “Our team says [there are] still many displaced families that are hiding in the jungle, trying to avoid contact with the Burma army, who is now occupying their village.”
When soldiers entered Nam Lim Pa Village, they held and threatened about 300 students at the Nam Lim Pa IDP school compound. Later that evening, thousands of men, women, and children fled the Nam Lim Pa Village to avoid further violence.
It’s the latest episode in a recent series of violent attacks throughout Kachin state. Beginning in October, army troops systematically moved through northern Burma targeting the Kachin people.
According to Partners’ cohorts, government forces imprisoned civilians and forced them to work for military purposes, carried out attacks against villages, and sexually assaulted Kachin women and young girls.
In the course of operations, the Burma Army encroached on Kachin-controlled land, reinforced and strengthened existing positions, and disrupted civilian activities throughout the area. Much of the fighting took place in Mansi Township of Kachin State, but conflict was present throughout other areas of southern Kachin and northern Shan states as well.
According to Gumaer, land in northern Kachin state is a key asset for Burma’s government. The region is full of oil, large rivers, and untapped hydropower.
“The regime needs to control this part of Burma in order to continue to exploit those resources,” explains Gumaer. Industrial development is already underway in some areas by Chinese energy companies.
“It’s not a fight of ideologies. It’s–pure and simple–about greed, and the resources that [are] under the ground where these people were born.”
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“That state is about 90% Christian, and so it represents part of our family,” Gumaer says. Partners works in several of Burma’s ethnic regions to meet physical and spiritual needs.
“The story of these people and the story of this country is so compelling and so sad, and represents such a tremendous part of our Christian mission history, that our team is just drawn in like a magnet to this place,” he states.
Burma’s economic reforms and growing openness to international affairs has garnered a great deal of positive attention from world leaders over the past two years. However, Gumaer says they’re seeing the exact opposite among Burma’s ethnic populations.
“While [the government has] made these promises, and there are changes happening…in the ethnic states where we work, things are worse than they were before the reforms started,” he explains.
“There are more people displaced; there are more accounts of forced relocation and torture and extrajudicial killings. For these reasons, our team is compelled to keep engaging and keep doing what we can do to help these people see that they’re not forgotten and that God loves them.”
Keep praying for the Kachin people as they persevere through unimaginable suffering. Pray that their faith in the Lord remains true and strong.
“Faith is definitely an ‘on fire’ element for these people,” Gumaer states. “Their faith definitely informs how they’re surviving, how they’re keeping their hope alive.
“If you visit the Kachin on their turf, you’ll be praying with them, you’ll be doing church services with them, and you’ll be worshipping with them, even while they’re running and trying to pull their lives together and take care of their kids.”
Ask the Lord how He would have you contribute to financial needs in this situation.
“Join our efforts to bring the goodness of God to bear in their lives by prayer and by supporting us,” urges Gumaer.
“These people are desperate. They don’t have the food supplies they need, they don’t have the shelter they need, and they’re depending on us to be a part of helping them with those essential needs.”