Burma (MNN) — July 4th in the U.S. is equated with freedom, liberty and independence. America’s founders sought and fought for freedom from the British government’s oppression.
“Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual…Nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us,” said John Hancock, the first man to sign the United States’ declaration of independence.
Among the founders’ reasons for breaking away and starting anew was the following: “[King George III] has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
Similar mistreatment is taking place in Burma today.
“[The government is] in many ways, complicit with the suffering of these people,” says Steve Gumaer of Partners Relief and Development.
Whereas America’s founders chose to leave Britain, Burma’s government is allowing ethnic people groups like the Rohingya to be forced out of their homes.
“The Rohingyas that were pushed out of Sittwe in particular, that’s 200,000 people, were forced to build shelters with grass and sticks and whatever they could find in this low-lying land that they were put on,” Gumaer explains.
Since Burma’s independence in 1948, the nation’s government has been in conflict with one ethnic minority group or another. Authorities’ current campaign against the mostly-Muslim Rohingya people began last June.
A year later, between 800,000 and 1 million Rohingya have been forced to live in substandard conditions near the Bay of Bengal coastline.
A seemingly-encouraging sign came over the weekend, as Malaysia’s government called for Burma to address violence in the Rakhine state.
“I take that as a positive step for Malaysia to call on the regime to end this violence,” says Gumaer. “It makes sense that the government in Malaysia would push back against the regime’s treatment of Muslims, as [Malaysia is] a Muslim country.
“That Malaysia complains is a good diplomatic event,” Gumaer says. However, “it doesn’t mean that the regime is going to do anything about it.”
“I don’t think that the regime is really going to care unless the criticism affects the flow of money and relationships with these international stakeholders,” he clarifies.
While the world may be ignoring the Rohingya’s plight, God hasn’t forgotten them. And, as the Body of Christ, we shouldn’t either.
“Our team works so that these people can see God in action, and know that He is engaged and cares about them,” says Gumaer.
Over the past two months, Partners delivered 910 waterproof tarps, as well as bamboo, to Rohingya families.
“Right now, the monsoon season has started and the rains are heavy,” Gumaer explains.
With the materials Partners delivered, approximately 5,000 people now have waterproof shelter. Gumaer says their efforts don’t even begin to meet the tremendous needs he sees in Burma.
“When we can’t get the things that they need to the places where they’re needed, all I can do is say that ‘You’re Lord’ and ‘Please provide for these people’,” says Gumaer.
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“I think that the most significant thing we can pray for is that there would be an end to this systematic injustice that forces suffering on people who have committed no crime,” Gumaer says.
“And where that systematic injustice can’t be stopped, we pray that God would meet the deepest, heartfelt needs of these people.”
Images courtesy: Partners Relief and Development