Date: March 24, 2020
2019 had been a turbulent year for Myanmar, to say the very least. Ranking the 19th most dangerous nation for Christians by Open Doors Analytical, being home to the Rohingya Muslims, whose persecution nearly meets the standards of genocide, and obstacles to reconciliation between the government of Myanmar and the multitude of Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) plagued the year and stained whatever progress Myanmar has made. Displacement, trafficking, "weak rule of law, corrupt judiciary, or impunity for security force abuses" remain unaddressed by the government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.
Free Burma Rangers is a movement that works in places such as Myanmar (now Burma), Iraq, Syria, and Kurdistan to help individuals who are violently oppressed by their governments. FBR released a documentary in February of 2020 which outlines their efforts in these countries, the relationships they have formed with partners and victims, and the tragedies which have become every-day realities in these countries, all while displaying their faith and trust in God who guides their mission. This emotional tale couples with their report on the conditions in the ethnic states of the nation that are often embroiled in conflict: Arakan State, Kachin State, Chin State, Shan State, among others.
In Arakan State, the Arakan Army fights the Burma Army in response to the "random executions, torture, arrests, and kidnappings against civilians," though the increasing violence has caused the displacement of some 39,000 civilians and deaths of Burmese soldiers. The adjacent Chin State has become the home to this new mass of displaced civilians. In Kachin State and Shan State, daily clashes, rape and murder of civilians in nearby townships, and repression of freedom of speech regarding the situation are commonplace. And in Southern Shan State, young boys from the Lahu community are forcefully conscripted into the military.
Myanmar is a country wracked by violent oppression, ethnic conflict, as well as religious persecution. In 2019, Jubilee Campaign submitted our report on religious freedom and human rights conditions in Myanmar to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review. The population of Christians, Muslims, and Hindus in Myanmar make up a sizable 7,000,000 citizens, but they remain persecuted in a nation where 41 million citizens practice Buddhism.
The government of Myanmar in 2015 ratified two major pieces of legislation that inherently infringe upon personal and religious freedoms. The Religious Conversion Bill drastically increases the burden of proof and length of application review time for individuals who apply to convert religions. The accompanying Monogamy Bill criminalizes sexual relations between unmarried individuals.
Perhaps the most endangered group in Myanmar, though, is the Rohingya Muslim group. Just a year ago, in January 2019, nearly one million Rohingya Muslims had fled to Bangladesh resettlement camps in order to escape the persecution and absolute statelessness they experience in Myanmar. The UN General Assembly has revealed that "disenfranchisement, economic dispossession, marginalization, deprivation of livelihood" are among the conditions which make the lives of the Rohingya in Myanmar so precarious. Many of these individuals are unable to make lives for themselves due to their difficulty gaining citizenship and therefore inability to find jobs and receive health care and education. Beyond institutionalized discrimination, according to Human Rights Watch, violence is a growing reality: "killings, arson, enforced disappearances, extortion...sexual violence and abductions" perhaps the most egregious.
We would like to share a prayer request by David Eubank of Free Burma Rangers and Christians Concerned for Burma, who in the FBR report states "As you read...and learn more about the current situation in Burma:
- please pray for its people
- please pray for the government of Burma and for the Army, even as it commits atrocities.
- pray that they would see this is not a good way forward and that it is not a way that's good for their souls