Tuesday, March 2, 2021

RLPB 587. Burma (Myanmar): Christians Imperilled.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 587 | Wed 03 Mar 2021
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BURMA (MYANMAR): CHRISTIANS IMPERILLED
Also update on Ibrahim Firouzi, Iran.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Kachin villagers and internally-displaced people
in church in Myitkyina, Kachin State, May 2018
source WSJ, Photo: Ye Aung Thu

As Christian charity Open Doors rightly notes, the military takeover in Burma (Myanmar) will greatly 'exaggerate existing vulnerabilities for Myanmar's Christian minority'. Christians comprise around six percent of the population; most are Protestant, mainly Baptist (1.7 million, mainly ethnic Karen, Kachin and Chin, the legacy of pioneer missionary Adoniram Judson) - along with some 750,000 Catholics. 

While the crackdown against anti-coup protesters in the major ethnic-Burman and Buddhist cities of Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay is being widely reported by mainstream media, the situation throughout the periphery - in Burma's ethnic minority states (where most of the country's Christians live) - remains, as ever, dark. It is in these ethnic minority states that the military (Tatmadaw) has long committed its worst crimes - bombing, burning and strafing villages; killing, torturing and raping civilians; plundering, exploiting, trafficking and abusing - all with impunity. The inhumane barbarity with which the Tatmadaw commits these crimes against civilians is the product of its covetous greed and its Burman-Buddhist ethnic-religious supremacism.

Sister Nu Thawng (more images)

Anti-coup protesters in the heavily militarised northern and predominantly Christian Kachin State have reportedly been beaten, shot with rubber bullets and arrested. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is deeply concerned that troops have invaded towns and severed transport routes, making it even more difficult to get aid to some 100,000 displaced Kachin. Burma expert Benedict Rogers commented on 1 March that among the many images to haunt him, that of SFX (St Francis Xavier) Sister Nu Thawng in Myitkyina, Kachin State, tearfully kneeling before police begging them not to shoot the protesters, stood out the most.

In Karen State (around 30 percent Christian) some 5000 Christians are currently displaced in the jungle due to the Tatmadaw destroying at least 23 villages over the past two months. In a report published on 7 February, David Eubank, founder of the Free Burma Rangers, commented that the Karen feel that 'their own lives haven't changed: they were attacked before the coup and they are being attacked now after the coup'. Karen News reports (mid-February) that the Burmese Army has blocked access to humanitarian aid.

The ousted government has formed the 'Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Assembly of the Union: i.e., parliament]' (CRPH). Significantly, as Benedict Rogers writes, the CRPH has appointed Dr Sasa, an inspirational, highly regarded ethnic Chin and Christian, as its special envoy to the United Nations. 'Suddenly,' writes Rogers, '[Dr Sasa] has been catapulted into national prominence. As Rogers rightly notes, this is 'both exciting and dangerous'.

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For a post with more political detail and context, see:
Military Coup Leaves Burma’s Christian Peoples Gravely Imperilled
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 3 March 2021
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PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL

* intervene in Burma (Myanmar) to redeem this crisis for his glory; may the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) be restrained and its power limited; may Burma's peoples unite around their desire for peace, justice, liberty and respect.

* embolden his Church to 'utter what is precious' and thus 'be as [the Lord's] mouth' in the midst of this crisis (from Jeremiah 15:15-21). May the Lord - who breaks through enemies like a breaking flood (2 Samuel 5:17-21) - open the way for the Church to receive all the humanitarian aid she requires; may many fearful, confused and needy people find Jesus in the midst of this storm (see Matthew 14:22-33).

* accompany and protect our brother Dr Sasa, and fill him with wisdom, discernment and courage as he represents Burma's (Myanmar's) elected government and citizens on the international stage.

'God loves importunate [persistent] prayer so much that He will not give us much blessing without it.' (Adoniram Judson, 1788-1850; pioneer missionary to Burma).

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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CHRISTIANS IMPERILLED IN BURMA (MYANMAR)

The crackdown against anti-coup protesters in the mostly Burman-Buddhist cities of Yangon (Rangoon) and Mandalay is being widely reported by mainstream media. However, the situation in Burma's ethnic minority states - where most of the country's Christians live - remains dark. Yet it is in these ethnic minority states that the Tatmadaw (Burmese military) has long committed its worst crimes - bombing and burning villages; killing, torturing and raping civilians - with impunity. The barbarity with which the Tatmadaw commits these crimes is the product of its covetous greed and its Burman-Buddhist ethnic-religious supremacism. The coup leaves Burma's long-persecuted Karen, Kachin and Chin Christians gravely imperilled. Meanwhile, the ousted government has appointed Dr Sasa - an ethnic Chin and Christian - as its special envoy to the United Nations. May the Lord preserve him. Please pray.

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UPDATE ON IRAN: Ebrahim Firouzi (34) was released from prison on Saturday 27 February, after bail of 50 million tomans (around $1,650) was posted for him. While he is pleased to be out of prison, the new and very serious charges of 'insulting the sacred' (blasphemy) and 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favour of hostile groups' have not been dropped. This is far from over. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com