“The Lord listens and has answered their prayers by touching many people’s hearts, including Barnabas Aid, to save their lives,” relates one of our project partners in Myanmar (Burma). “When the people have got the rice, they are so happy, with tears.”
Barnabas has been providing aid and other help to Myanmar’s persecuted Christians since 2005. Working discreetly through Christian organisations in Myanmar – as well as Thailand, India and Bangladesh, where Christian refugees have been forced to flee for safety – Barnabas has funded practical aid to suffering ethnic-minority believers.
These believers have for at least three generations suffered persecution at the hands of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military). It is estimated that 6.2% of the population of Myanmar are Christian. Most belong to the Christian-majority Kachin, Chin and Karen ethnic groups. There are also significant Christian minorities among other groups, including the Kayah (Karenni) people and the Muslim-majority Rohingya.
Barnabas Aid has provided for the needs of Christians from all these groups. Such needs intensified in the wake of the 2021 military coup (Barnabas Aid, May/June 2021, pp.6-9).
Desperate needs met as the Lord touches hearts
Thousands of Christians have been driven from their homes. Some have had to run more than once, as the Tatmadaw have launched airstrikes and artillery bombardments against IDP (internally displaced persons) camps.
Barnabas Aid has been hard at work giving practical support to our suffering brothers and sisters. In the 12 months to the end of March 2022, Barnabas helped 5,204 Christian families in Myanmar (about 26,000 people).
Your gifts helped around 26,000 Christians in Myanmar in the year to March 2022
Through our project partners – and thanks to your generous donations – essential supplies of rice, cooking oil, tinned fish, medicines, clothes, baby milk powder, blankets, mats and tarpaulins have reached Christians, both those in Myanmar and the many who have been able to cross over into Thailand and India.
Essential supplies provided in the jungle and across borders
Barnabas project partners have helped fleeing Karen Christians by supplying aid in various locations. Over several months in 2021 the relief network extended to several IDP camps and an estimated 8,500 displaced Karen people who are living along the Thai border. In one camp accommodating about 2,000 Karen Christians, our partners have brought rice, noodles, oil, and other supplies several times.
Aid has also been delivered to refugees from Karen State who had crossed into Thailand. The Karen believers were provided with not just food but also Bibles in the Karen language.
Further north, Barnabas has distributed aid to a Kachin IDP camp in northern Shan State. Currently there are estimated to be more than 100,000 Kachin IDPs.
Meanwhile, on Myanmar’s western border, Barnabas is supporting at least 5,540 Christians who have crossed over from mainly Christian Chin State into the Indian state of Mizoram. At least 22 churches and 350 homes in Chin State were burned or destroyed by the military between August and November 2021.
Local project partners have faced many challenges in distributing the aid. Sometimes drones must be used to find needy Christians deep in the jungle. It took one determined aid distributor more than two weeks to locate certain displaced families in order to deliver much-needed supplies funded through your generous donations.
The annual rainy season (June-October) brings further challenges, but our project partners travel by motorbike or on foot to distribute rice to IDPs in remote, flood-prone areas.
Return home is not an option
To return home is very risky as the Tatmadaw regularly plant landmines around abandoned villages. During a two-week ceasefire, some young men went back to their villages to see what was left of their houses. At least five of them were injured when landmines were detonated. There have also been instances of men returning to their villages in search of food only to be shot dead by Tatmadaw soldiers.
Widowed “Naw” and her family are among thousands of Christians for whom returning home is not an option. “We are a family of four. My youngest daughter is four years old now,” she explains. When the soldiers came, “the entire village needed to flee; it was nowhere safe for us anymore in our village”. The evacuation of whole communities is typical of Christians uprooted from their homes in Myanmar.
Naw and her children are now in an IDP camp – but even the IDP camps are not completely safe from continuing Tatmadaw airstrikes. Several camps accommodating Christians supported by Barnabas have been struck, causing those within to run for cover in the jungle.
“Now young children are digging holes,” Naw adds. “We are teaching the little ones to hide in there when the war planes are flying and bombing us. Please, keep us in your prayers. Thank you and God bless you.”
Timely intervention from pastor
Churches whenever possible have kept in contact with Barnabas Aid’s project partners. Pastor “Y” was one who made an urgent appeal for help. He reported Tatmadaw attacks as close as 30 minutes’ walk from his church, and many displaced Karen people desperately needed help. He sent out his church members to look for the Karen families hiding in the jungle.
When the church members found them and brought them to his church, as the pastor had no money to buy relief aid, he asked the Barnabas partners to help. The families, he said, were severely traumatised and he was so grateful to be able to help them and minister to them. The pastor and church members started preparing meals funded by Barnabas for the Karen IDPs and resolved to continue for as long as it is needed.
When Tatmadaw soldiers surrounded her village, they ordered "Pah", 33, and her four children aged between 12 and 4, to walk away but kept hold of her husband and brother, not allowing her to look back. Then followed the sound of gunshots.
A week after Pah moved into an IDP camp with her children she visited the village, now burned down, only to recognise her husband’s burned body by the remains of his clothes.
The family moved into another village in a more isolated area. Her disabled mother, who had also been in the camp, came with them, but died shortly afterwards.
Barnabas currently provides Pah and her children with food and other essentials. “I hope and believe that God will continue to bless you and may you receive a blessing from God abundantly,” said Pah who constantly remembers those who have helped her.
Despite her distress, Pah continues to hope in the Lord: “I just comfort myself with the words of God and I’m strongly believing that God will continue to protect me and my children.”
Project ref: 75-763 Aid for Persecuted Christians in Myanmar