Myanmar (MNN) — 140,000 members
of the Karen minority group have fled across the border from Myanmar to
Thailand. They are living in crowded
refugee camps with no escape in sight.
"They just keep flooding into
Thailand, and the Thai government says they can't stay, they've got to go back
to Myanmar," said Patrick Klein of Vision Beyond Borders. "If they go back to Myanmar, they will be
Klein said the minority group has
been suffering a "slow genocide" at the hands of Myanmar's military for about 60
years. The situation has been escalating
over the last couple years, especially in recent months.
"We had heard that they were talking
about wiping the people off the face of the earth by the year 2010," Klein
The genocide is motivated by the
Karen people's faith – 60 percent of them are Christians – and by the fact that
they did not support the military many years ago when it threw out British
"They're surrounding villages,"
Klein said of the military. "They lob
rockets and kill the people, and then whoever's left alive, they shoot them. And then they burn the evidence…we've heard reports
they are cutting off the food supply, starving the people to death. And now we're hearing they are actually poisoning
the water sources."
The military is also attacking
other minority groups. One pastor in the
region explained the reason to Klein.
"The Myanmar military wants them
to forget their cultural identity and tribal people – that they would just
become Myanma and give up all their tribal ways," Klein said. "And the people are proud of their heritage,
and they don't want to give up those tribal ways."
The Christians are striving to
stay strong in their faith despite the persecution. A tornado recently destroyed many of their
churches, and they are asking for help to rebuild the churches.
"They keep trying to press on,
but they're very much controlled by the government," Klein explained. The Karen in the refugee camps especially need
support from their fellow Christians.
"The ones in the refugee camps
seem really discouraged, because they feel like the world has forgotten about
them, and here they are suffering – and the government harassing them and
trying to kill all these people," Klein said. "I think it's important we pray that God would
encourage the believers…and help them all that we can so that they know that
they're not alone in this."
VBB encourages Christians to
pressure their governments to put pressure on Myanmar. Also, VBB is working to meet the physical needs
of the refugees. The camps in Thailand recently
received 650 pounds of clothing and supplies from VBB, which hopes to send
another 40-foot container soon.
This assistance comes in addition
to the medicine and rice VBB has been providing since last year's cyclones, and
the orphanages it's establishing for children who lost their parents in the
cyclone. Many of the orphans are part of
the Karen minority group. Christians can
help by supporting these efforts financially, and by praying for the nation of Burma.
"Pray that God would bring down
this military government," Klein said. "We
need to pray that God Himself would intervene and change the country…And if
people want to help support us, we could really use the help. We're trying to help the refugees now. We are also building orphanages inside Myanmar
to house the children…and I was just asked if we would help to rebuild some of
the churches that were demolished during the cyclone."