BURMA (MYANMAR): DIVINE INTERVENTION NEEDED

(August 27, 2022) Elizabeth Kendal reports concerning news regarding Myanmar (originally Burma)…

Before the military coup of February 2021, Chin State in western Burma was relatively peaceful, primarily because the Tatmadaw (Burma Army) had no interests in the mountainous, sparsely populated, resource-poor region. In 1988, after the military brutally crushed pro-democracy protests and seized power for itself, the Chin founded the Chin National Front (CNF) and its armed wing, the Chin National Army (CNA), purportedly ‘to help secure self-determination for the Chin people, democracy, and the establishment of a Federal Union of Myanmar.’

Horrible persecution
Since then, though Chin State might not have faced war in the same way the resource-rich Kachin and Karen/Kayin States have faced war, the Chin have suffered marginalisation (forced into crippling, deadly poverty) and horrible persecution, including forced labour (enslavement), forced conversion to Buddhism and torture at the hands of Burmese troops and intelligence operatives. Still, according to Mizzima (28 July 2022), the CNF/CNA ‘never had more than 200-300 members prior to 2021.’

Mizzima explains how American Baptist missionaries Reverend Arthur and Laura Carson arrived in the Chin Hills in 1899. ‘Now,’ reports Mizzima, ‘over 90 per cent of Chin people are Christians and churches are at the centre of society. Pastors and ministers are very respected and often have leadership roles in society. Every Sunday everyone goes to church, and towns and villages are deserted until everyone pours out of the churches in their Sunday best.

Apart from Baptist churches, there are also Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Evangelical churches in Chin State.’ According to Mizzima, after Burma’s February 2021 military coup, ‘The CNF/CNA was said to be the first EAO [Ethnic Armed Organisation] to ally itself with the National Unity Government (NUG). More guerrilla groups have also sprung up in Chin State to help the CNA in its fight against the junta…’ Furthermore, the NUG chose Dr Sasa —‘an inspirational, highly regarded ethnic Chin and Christian’— as its special envoy to the United Nations [RLPB 587 (3 March 2021)].

Map source: ‘Fighters of Chin State Are No Longer Strangers To Hardship, Repression in Myanmar’

Smuggled aid
When faced with resistance, the Tatmadaw — which maintains a stranglehold on military, political and economic power — has long employed a strategy known as ‘Four Cuts’: cut access to food, funds, intelligence and recruitment. While that foundational strategy still applies, the primary tactic being used today is that of the ‘Three Alls’: ‘burn all, kill all, loot all.’ [See Free Burma Rangers (17 Aug 2022) for a timeline of recent atrocities in Chin State.] According to Mizzima, as many as 40,000 thousand Chin have fled west into India, mostly to their ethnic kin in Mizoram and Manipur.

Because it is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, India does not accept or aid refugees. Consequently, the burden of care falls entirely to Mizo churches. Thousands more Chin are stranded in the Chin Hills, thousands in IDP camps and thousands more in the jungle without access to adequate shelter, food, water, sanitation or medicines. To cut Chin access to humanitarian aid, the Tatmadaw — which controls the urban centres and main roads — has established an aid blockade. Any aid that does get through is smuggled from Mizoram, through the jungles and up to mountain camps at great personal risk.

Burma’s Cardinal Charles Bo recently told long-time Burma expert, Benedict Rogers, that the junta is cracking down harder than ever in the expectation that by end of the year everything will be quiet again for, by then, the military will have crushed the resistance. The junta’s confidence is not unreasonable. The entire NUG army (Popular Defence Force) has been estimated at around 24,300 ill-equipped volunteers.

While they are supported by the Christian Karen, Kachin and Chin ethnic armies [EAOs] these ethnic States are themselves hemmed in by non-supportive states eager to do business with the junta; meaning supply and sanctuary cannot be guaranteed. Meanwhile, as military analyst David Scott Mathieson writes (June 2021), ‘while the real strength of the Tatmadaw is impossible to gauge… most balanced estimates are at around 350,000 for all three branches including army, navy and air force, along with 80,000 in the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) and several thousand Border Guard Forces (BGFs) and People’s Militia units.’

(Right: Praying for peace. A scene from ‘Myanmar’s Forgotten War’ by Australian photojournalist, Matt Davis)

A divine intervention is desperately needed. An extract from 2 Kings 6:8-23 – To the fearful cry of ‘What shall we do? (v15)’ Elisha replies, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them’ (v16)… and then Elisha prayed (v17).

Please pray that our sovereign God will –

  • Intervene in Burma/Myanmar to ‘break the arm’ of this genocidal junta. May He cut the junta’s access to apply — particularly military aid from Russia, Ukraine and China.
  • Cut the junta’s access to funds — may investment in military-ruled Burma simply dry up.
  • Likewise cut the junta’s access to operational intelligence; and its appeal among soldiers in its employ.
  • Sustain all who are suffering, grieving, wounded, hungry, displaced and traumatised because of junta terror; may the LORD provide everything that is needed, including protection.
  • Protect all who would fight for justice, liberty and peace in Burma; may the Lord defend them and magnify their voices.
  • Restore all the years the ‘locust’/junta has eaten; may Burma be safe and free, for the sake of the church, the gospel and the multitudes who so desperately need them.

From Psalm 10 ESV: Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none… O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church. To support this ministry visit www.ElizabethKendal.com.

Elizabeth 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). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
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