On 27 and 28 March Myanmar Army fighter jets launched aerial bombardments against civilians in the Papun District of Karen State. At least three were killed, eight injured, and an estimated 11,000, many of whom are Christians, forced to flee their homes and join the thousands who have become either internally displaced persons (IDPs) or have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
A Karen Christian leader who was leading a Bible study in the area at the time escaped with his life. “It was around 7pm when the army jet fighter dropped a bomb just feet away from us,” he recounted. “We ran and the next bomb came even closer. Thank God we survived.”
A few days later, 3 April, the Myanmar Army – also known as the Tatmadaw – raided churches in Kachin State, ostensibly to investigate allegations that Christians were sheltering protest leaders and that church ministers were involved in anti-coup activism. These allegations were unfounded.
These are just a few examples of the violence and repression faced by the Karen, Kachin and other ethnic-minority Christians since the military coup on 1 February this year which replaced the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy (NLD) with a military dictatorship.
The Karen, Kachin and Chin people are religious and ethnic outsiders in Myanmar (Burma), dominated by the religiously Buddhist and ethnically Burman majority, a dominance which the Tatmadaw seeks to maintain. Yet, thanks to our supporters, Barnabas Fund has been able to offer support to our persecuted brothers and sisters.
“Today is horrible; tomorrow is too remote to hope for”
“We have been constantly on the move, hiding from place to place. No house to live in, no work, nothing left. I did not see any future for my family, and we were so tired to run, to hide and live in constant fear.” These are the words of “Maun” (not his real name), a displaced Karen Christian, husband and father of four. Hiding in the jungle, this family have barely enough food to live on – because of poor nutrition and exhaustion the mother cannot even breastfeed her one-month-old baby.
After the bombing in Karen State, the church leader who survived sought to capture the feelings of the internally displaced Christians in verse:
I stared at death face to face and was spared for now
Don’t know for how long
Food becomes tasteless, totally deprived
Words become meaningless
Don’t even know what I should say
Don’t even know what I should do
Bereft of reason
Today is horrible
Tomorrow too remote to hope for
Our contacts in Myanmar work hard to find families hiding in secret, to provide for them the help that they need, using aerial drones to discover their location. IDPs are given food such as rice, oil and tinned fish, other essentials including medicines, clothes and baby powder, as well as blankets, mats and tarpaulins as a means of constructing some sort of shelter. Relief workers also share God’s word, providing believers with Bibles in their own language.
“Today is a happy day for my family,” said Maun. “You brought us so many blessings … we had left everything behind. I thought it was impossible for people to find us, but I think this is a miracle from God.”
A real difference to our persecuted brothers and sisters
Violent repression of the majority-Christian ethnic groups – as well as the majority-Buddhist Shan and majority-Muslim Rohingya, among which are a number of Christians – has continued for many decades, even during the years of supposedly democratic government. The fear is that this repression will increase now that the Tatmadaw has full control of the country.
Yet your prayers and donations make a real difference to our persecuted brothers and sisters, giving hope back to those whom the world seems to have forgotten.
Project reference: 75-763
(Aid for persecuted Christians in Myanmar)