Refugee camps in Burma a new target for violence

By May 14, 2014
Pray for Burma (Photo Courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

Pray for Burma.
(Photo Courtesy of Vision Beyond Borders)

Burma (MNN) — You’ve run away from home because it’s no longer safe. The refugee camp was supposed to provide protection, but now it’sĀ under attack. So when you’re turned away at the border, you have no idea how you’ll escape the violence of your country.

This is the situation for hundreds of thousands of refugees in Burma. The Burmese army continues making war on ethnic groups after three decades of violence. The past few weeks highlight violence between the army and the Kachin.

We talked with Dyann Romeijn, a spokesperson for Vision Beyond Borders, to hear the latest from Burma.

“While there’s been 500,000 killed, it hasn’t been overnight. It’s been a slower type of genocide, so it doesn’t garner the media attention that the rest of the genocides tend to gather. But it’s occurring nonetheless,” she explains. The attacks are primarily against the Karen, Kachin, and Shan states of Burma.

According to Romeijn, over two million have been displaced from their villages, and 250,000 people have fled to refugee camps. These Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are not necessarily safe in the camps, however.

The Burmese Army continues to attack the groups in the refugee camps. Any ceasefires are temporary and used as a time to replenish, restock, and reestablish their army’s position. The fighting heightens in ferocity after these short breaks.

The persecution may be slow, but it is steady.

The fighting is not due to religion, or at least not primarily. It is a fight about ethnicity. It is important to note that over 90% of the Kachin people are Christian. Yet, the Buddhists and animists among them are persecuted as well.

When the safety of IDP camps is compromised, the ethnic groups often try to flee to neighboring countries.

Romeijn says, “In Karen state, they’re able to go into Thailand which has been a safe haven for them, and Thailand has allowed them to stay there in these refugee camps. But China is blocking a lot of the refugees from Kachin state as they try to come across the border.”

VBB ministers to the refugees in Burma. They work with contacts on the ground to provide necessities like food and medicine. VBB assesses spiritual needs as well by providing Bibles to the people.

They also have been working in children’s homes to provide an education to orphans and children living in the camps.

Romeijn says, “That’s the amazing thing, when you go over there with teams and you see these kids; and despite all the difficulties that they have seen, they’re very happy. They’re very content. They get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and they read their Bibles. They actually pray for the soldiers that persecute them. It’s amazing to see their love and the depth of their forgiveness and the reality of their Christian walk.”

Just because the media isn’t heavily covering the situation in Burma, it doesn’t mean that help isn’t needed. Help VBB raise funds for Bibles, medicine, and food.

Above all, Romeijn reminds us that we need to be praying. “I honestly believe it’s a spiritual battle,” she says. Your church can request a documentary and a prayer guide which can keep your congregation aware and informed of the situation in Burma.

Teams can also go visit these people to pray with them and comfort them and provide them care that follows the example of Christ. Click here for more information.

“The Gospel is rampant in the refugee camps,” Romeijn says. Continue to pray that these people will share the love they find in Christ with others, and that they’ll keep their eyes on Jesus through all trials.

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