Myanmar: A Nation in Turmoil – Update
In Spring we published an article about the situation in Myanmar following the coup of February 1, 2021. This article is an update on the situation.
Recently, our Canadian travel advisory still says “DO NOT TRAVEL to this southeast Asian country due to the political tensions and high risk of civil unrest. If you are in Myanmar, you should leave now if you can do so safely.”
According to the BBC, there is a buildup of forces in the north and especially in two or three states where small groups have been using ambushes and in turn the villages are being raided and houses and even churches being burned. There is a fear by UN report that there could be a response similar to the one against the Rohingya a couple of years ago. The ground is drying after rainy season, making access to remote and hilly areas easier for the military.
The recently updated travel advisory goes on to list some of the following:
“Security forces have been using water guns, arrests, and lethal force against protesters in several locations. This has resulted in multiple casualties. … Heightened civil unrest and armed conflict are expected to continue. They could disrupt access to essential services. … The availability of health care is limited throughout the country. Banking services, including ATMs, have also been disrupted.
Although access to internet and telecommunications services has resumed, access to some social media platforms and websites remains disrupted…There is very limited access to commercial flights….The situation remains volatile and could deteriorate quickly.” (Internet is especially cut off in the area of more conflict across the north and northwest. Further the main advice is to stay indoors and maintain a low profile.)
Officially, the following are seen as prosecutable offences: Insulting religion which includes any disrespectful treatment, depiction or image (including tattoos) of Buddha or other religious representation; Political activism (including the dissemination of printed materials), protests, demonstrations and unauthorized assemblies are not tolerated in Myanmar; Freedom of speech and political activities are restricted, and the government is very sensitive to any expression of opposition to its rule.
The people are trying to get their businesses to return to normal life. Tourism is dead and investments came to an end, so the Shangri La hotel is closed and executives left the country. This is generally true of many larger hotels and larger businesses.
The times are disturbing. The governing forces are trying to go back in time while the youth are trying to bring justice to current situations. Our partner and friends are careful not to show attachment to any one color (political or military distinctions) as you might be judged by that attachment instead of on your personal actions, which is one of the most dangerous elements of life presently.
A troubling development among youth in the church is a growing reliance on guns, instead of on the gospel, grace and glory. The Karen people, who were led to Christ by Adoniram Judson about 200 years ago, began thinking about independence 60 years ago and created a local army. Since that time, there appears to have been a declining confidence in the gospel among the Karen. The Kachin and Chin peoples also received Christ about 100 years ago. But the Kachin have had a local army since at least 1988 which is in danger of weakening their reliance on God. The Chin local army recently has been activated in the last few weeks and the youth are a major part of that movement. It is a troubling trend amongst believers.
Prayer for the nation
The situation continues to be tense and many challenges persist for all who are in Myanmar. Brother Bruce has been hosting a monthly prayer meeting (via Zoom) to pray for the people of Myanmar. If you would like to take part in this event regular on the last Tuesday of each month, please contact our office to obtain information to connect to the meeting.
Specifically, you can pray for the following things related to the work of our partner there.
First, because of the disruption of so much of daily life activities, not only from Covid-19, but especially from the coup, it has been a challenge to get resources over to our partner. For example, we sent funds in spring but it took until late August for our partner to receive the funds (and only one portion of it at a time!). We did find a way to send larger amounts now but it will not be sustainable in the long-term. (Giving to their ministry has been low this year and now is a good time make that up as we are able to get resources there.)
Second, the situation with Covid-19, although it was overwhelming in late summer, has improved significantly in urban centres. The rural areas, however, continue to deal with higher case counts which means regional lockdowns.
Third, the Bible School of our partner is able now to function with 38 students connecting online through Zoom two accounts. On campus, where a very small group of students are studying – limited due to local Covid-19 restrictions – they have had issues with their well which made the water undrinkable, and they are presently drilling a new well.
Fourth, our partner is preparing for special ministry at Christmas. They will be coordinating events to share the gospel message and distributing many Bibles. Likely, they will be holding 1 or 2-day campaigns in the weeks leading up to Christmas in areas where they will be able to also pursue follow-up ministry.
Hope in the midst of chaos
All these events do not mitigate against the work of God by his Spirit in Myanmar. We are hearing that missionaries continue to find people very responsive to the gospel. In one town, there are two who recently received Christ and three families who are now very open to the gospel. The challenges of this present moment are causing many to be open to where they can find true hope for their future. And we know hope for the people of Myanmar is only found in Jesus Christ.