Wednesday, November 3, 2010

080. Burma: Christians at risk of post-election violence. (plus Iraq)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 080 | Wed 03 Nov 2010 

plus Iraq 

Burma's ruling military junta ruthlessly promotes ethnic (Burman) and religious (Buddhist) supremacy and nationalism while repressing, even violently crushing, all political opposition. The ethnic minority peoples who live in the hills around Burma's periphery are mostly Christian and are persecuted by the junta on ethnic, religious and political grounds. Because of their immense suffering, these groups do not trust the regime and are seeking autonomy. Ethnic minority groups, including those who have signed cease-fire agreements with the junta, consequently are unwilling to have their defence forces disarmed and absorbed into a national Border Guard Force (BGF). These groups include the Kachin in the north, of whom some 90 percent are devout Christians. They are simply unwilling to entrust their security to a centrally-controlled force dominated by the same Burmese soldiers that have spent decades indiscriminately enslaving, raping, torturing and massacring their people. 

Shrewdly the regime has made disarmament a condition of participation in the Sunday 7 November elections. While this sounds reasonable, it is actually a strategy by which reasonable fears are exploited to disenfranchise multitudes. However, that will not make much difference, as one quarter of all seats are reserved for appointed military personnel anyway, and the main Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP: a front for the ruling junta) is fielding more than three times as many candidates as all 35 opposition parties combined. Thus the election result -- a convincing win to the junta -- is a foregone conclusion. 

The sole purpose of the exercise is to 'legitimise' the regime so it can claim a 'mandate' to forcibly subjugate the ethnic-religious minorities. Recently the regime falsely and provocatively labelled the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) as 'insurgents'. This is pure propaganda as the KIA maintains a cease-fire agreement with the regime. Reportedly the junta has just purchased some 50 Mi-24 combat-ready helicopters and 12 Mi-2 armoured transport helicopters from Russia which they have positioned in readiness in the northern and central regions of the state. According to one Kachin church leader, 'After the election process, we ethnic minorities can be crushed.' 


* fix the eyes of Burma's long-suffering minority Christians onto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2,3) and draw the Church into prayer. 'I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.' 

* intervene in Burma to deliver his Church from evil. '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 10:17,18 ESV)


Burma will hold elections on Sunday 7 November 2010. The result is a foregone conclusion: a convincing win to the ruling regime. The purpose of the exercise is to give the ethnic Burman and Buddhist military junta a facade of legitimacy so it can claim a mandate to subjugate forcibly the state's long-suffering and severely persecuted ethnic minorities, many of whom are predominantly Christian. Having suffered severely over decades at the hands of the Burmese military, the minority peoples no longer trust the regime and are seeking autonomy as a means of guaranteeing their human rights and religious freedom. The regime has labelled the minorities 'insurgents', and many believe the regime will launch an offensive against them after the elections. Please pray for Burma's threatened Christian peoples. 



On Sunday 31 October gunmen affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant organisation connected to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, stormed a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad. First they executed Rev. Saad Abdal Tha'ir, the leading priest, then they sprayed bullets through the congregation. Having secured around 100 Christians hostage, they called for the release of jailed al Qaeda members. 

According to the group's website, they specifically targeted the church (which they referred to as a 'dirty den of idolatry') in response to anti-Christian incitement emanating from Egypt (see last week's RLPB 079). Indeed the group has vowed to 'exterminate Iraqi Christians' unless two Coptic women, both wives of Coptic priests who Muslims claim have been converted to Islam, are not freed from their alleged captivity. 

When the militants started executing hostages after a stand-off of several hours, the Iraqi military stormed the church. The militants responded by unleashing a bloodbath using automatic rifles, grenades and at least two militants detonating suicide bomb vests packed with ball-bearings. Of the 58 dead, 47 were Christians, including three priests. At least 78 were wounded. Iraq's indigenous, historic, traumatised, imperilled and dwindling Christian community is in mourning. We must not forget them. Please pray for mercy, deliverance and perseverance in faith.