Wednesday, March 3, 2010

045. Burma (Myanmar): praying for God's intervention.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 045 | Wed 03 Mar 2010

BURMA (MYANMAR): PRAYING FOR GOD'S INTERVENTION

Burma's ruling military junta violently represses dissent and relentlessly persecutes citizens on three grounds: ethnicity, religion and politics. The ethnic Burman majority (60 percent) are virtually all Buddhist. However, many of the ethnic minority peoples who live in the hills around Burma's periphery are Christian, whilst the Rohingya are Muslim. The junta ruthlessly promotes ethnic (Burman) and religious (Buddhist) supremacy and nationalism. Political opposition is not tolerated, not even from Burman Buddhists.

The largest ethnic minority, the Karen of south-eastern Burma, are 40 percent Christian. On Christmas Eve 1948, Burmese militiamen threw grenades into a church in Palaw, Mergui district, killing 80 Karen Christians. The Karen have been fighting a guerrilla war against the regime ever since. They simply want autonomy so they can preserve their Karen culture in peace and freedom. Historically the Karen had been united in this struggle. However, in recent years the regime has managed to exploit the religious divide to create the proxy Democratic Karen Buddhist Army that persecutes and kills Karen Christians for gain. The Burmese army uses Karen Christians as porters. However, conversion to Buddhism will win slave porters not only release, but a stipend and education for their children.

In the 1980s the Burmese military stepped up its aggression against Karen village chiefs. As the traditionally male chiefs were tortured and killed, women increasingly had to take on this role. On 24 February 2010 the Karen Women's Organization (KWO) released a report, 'Walking Amongst Sharp Knives'. It is based on interviews with 95 Karen women from 2005 to 2009 on their experience of being village heads and being targeted for systematic abuse by Burmese Army troops. They describe many forms of state-sponsored terror, including gang-rapes, tortures and beheadings. One testimony reports that Burmese troops took Karen women from the fields and crucified them before eventually cutting their throats.

The ethnic Chin of western Burma are estimated to be about 90 percent Christian. Christianity is integral to their culture and traditionally the Chin have erected large crosses on hilltops and roadsides as an expression of their faith. Since the early 1990s the junta has been systematically destroying crosses and forcing the Chin to build Buddhist pagodas in their place. According to the Christian Solidarity Worldwide publication, 'Carrying the Cross', virtually every town and major village in Chin state now has a Buddhist pagoda. Many churches have been destroyed and the building of new churches is prohibited. Burmese troops have abducted, tortured and killed Chin pastors and evangelists. Since around 1992 Burmese troops have been importing very strong, highly addictive alcohol into Chin state which they then sell cheaply to Chin youths. All Christian activity is tightly restricted and Chin-language Bibles must be smuggled in at great personal risk.

The Kachin of northern Burma are also estimated to be about 90 percent Christian. They launched a war for independence in 1961 after the regime declared Buddhism to be Burma's official state religion. A ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994. Despite this, the junta forces the Kachin also to build Buddhist pagodas. The junta's demand that the Kachin army either disarm or merge with the Burmese army is causing tension to escalate dangerously, especially as persecution intensifies in the lead up to the 2010 (sham) elections. The Kachin, who are still seeking basic cultural and human rights, are preparing for a war they do not want and (in their own strength) cannot win.

[Sunday 14 March is Global Day of Prayer for Burma]

WE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* draw near all Burma's Christians and strengthen them with supernatural faith that realises Christ's divine eternal love and presence.

* protect his children from the evil schemes and violent actions of wicked men. 'In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.' (Psalm 10:2 ESV)

* intervene in Burma for the sake of his Church and for the glory of his name.

'Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. [. . .] O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.' (Psalm 10:12,17,18 ESV)

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PRAYING FOR GOD'S INTERVENTION IN BURMA (MYANMAR)

Whilst Burma's ethnic Burman majority (60 percent) are virtually all Buddhist, many of the ethnic minorities are Christians. The junta ruthlessly promotes ethnic (Burman) and religious (Buddhist) supremacy and nationalism. In western Burma, the Chin (90 percent Christian) face constant repression and religious persecution at the hands of the military junta. In the north, the Kachin (90 percent Christian) are preparing for a war they do not want and (in their own strength) cannot win. In the south-east, Burma's largest ethnic minority, the Karen (40 percent Christian), are still fighting for autonomy for the preservation of their cultural and human rights. Please pray for God's intervention in Burma.