Tuesday, July 5, 2011

RLPB 115. Burma (Myanmar): Kachin flee terror

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 115 | Wed 06 Jul 2011
By Elizabeth Kendal

Kachin State, which borders China in Burma's far north, is home to Burma's ethnic Kachin minority. Most Kachin are devout Christians and the state is defined by its Christian culture. Like other ethnic-religious minorities in Burma, the Kachin are politically marginalised and persecuted on racial and religious grounds. When the junta wants to impose its will, it usually does so through extreme brutality fuelled by racial and religious hatred -- a manifestation of militant Burman-Buddhist supremacy. Because the Kachin have resisted the junta's demand that they disarm, the junta has labelled them 'separatist'.

Burma Rivers Network reports: 'Large dams are being constructed on all of Burma's major rivers and tributaries by Chinese, Thai and Indian companies. The dams are causing displacement, militarisation, human rights abuses, and irreversible environmental damage, threatening the livelihoods and food security of millions. [. . .] Neighbouring countries benefit from this situation by gaining electricity without bearing the social and environmental costs.' This is one reason why the junta has a renewed interest in controlling Kachin lands. As reported in RLPB 114 (June 2011 Update) China wants to build nine hydro-power mega-dams in Kachin State, even though the Kachin have warned China that the dams could trigger civil war in Burma.

Fighting erupted in the second week in June and reports of extreme brutality, ethnic cleansing and humanitarian crises are now emerging. The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), reports that some 16,000 Kachin refugees are living in five camps in and around Laiza, a town still under KIA control. KIO adds, 'So far no international humanitarian agency has offered any help to them.' In Myitkyina, 220 displaced people have taken refuge in the Catholic Church of St Joseph and 330 in the Baptist Church. Another 4,000 Kachin refugees are reportedly fleeing through the jungle, trying to avoid Burmese soldiers. A further 10,000 -- possibly as many as 20,000 -- are languishing at the Chinese border; Beijing will not accept them and no international agency is able to get aid to them. Meanwhile, the Burmese Army is sending up reinforcements, mostly in small groups dressed in civilian clothes. The Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT) recently reported that at least 18 women and girls from age 15 to 50 were gang-raped in the war-zone by Burmese soldiers between 10 & 18 June. Four of the women were killed after being gang-raped (one in front of her husband) while another died from her injuries. KWAT believes gang-rape is being systematically employed as a weapon of war and means of terror.

A local priest confirmed to Fides news agency that Burmese soldiers are killing old people and children, raping women, burning homes and confiscating properties. 'They use ruthless methods [for] ethnic cleansing,' he said, adding that 'almost all [the victims] are Christians'. KIA Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Gun Maw, believes the junta has broader military goals than just protecting the dam sites. Indeed, the junta is doubtless exploiting the dams issues as a pretext to launch a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing. According to the KIA military commander in neighbouring Shan State, Col. Zau Raw, 'We are in for a major war.' The Bishop of Myitkyina, Mgr Francis Daw Tang, has been speaking through Radio Veritas, encouraging the people -- most of whom are Protestant -- to 'stay united' and remember, 'The Lord is near you. Have faith in him,' and '. . . continue to pray for peace.'

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy
Proverbs 31:8,9 NKJV


* God will intervene (in this rainy season) to bring humanitarian aid to the Kachin people: food, medicines and shelter.

* God will intervene to bring peace: may China be held as accountable as the Burmese junta, and may God turn their hearts towards achieving peace.

* all God's Kachin people will know and experience the love, presence and provision of their faithful LORD. (Isaiah 40:27-31)


Civil war has erupted in Burma's Kachin State, a state defined by its Christian culture and home to a predominately devout Christian people. The trigger has been China's building hydro-power mega-dams that will displace hundreds of thousands and threaten the food security of millions of Kachin. Reports of massive displacements, brutal killings of civilians, gang-rapes and property confiscations have led some to conclude that the junta is actually engaged in a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing, fuelled by ethnic and religious hatred and greed. About 16,000 Kachin refugees are in five camps in and around Laiza and 4,000 in the jungle. Some 20,000 are massed on the Chinese border, but China denies them entry. No humanitarian assistance is getting through. Please pray for our Kachin brethren.