Myanmar Under Immense Strain
The Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been under oppressive military rule since February 2021. According to the Burmese advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, over 6,000 peaceful opposers, politicians, medics and journalists have been detained since the coup and over 900 have been killed. Including dozens of children.
Then, in the middle of the junta, came a new outbreak of Covid – the country’s most severe yet. The military coup has caused Myanmar’s hospitals to collapse and thrown vaccination and testing campaigns into chaos. News outlets are reporting desperate stories of people trying to source oxygen – many unsuccessfully.
Pop up isolation centres have been set up for those infected. People are struggling to decide whether to remain at home and risk infecting their families, or to go into a military-operated care facility in the midst of widespread human rights abuses. Borders have closed to prevent spreading – and to stop people trying to escape the military rule.
Effects on the Church
Our Regional Director for Southeast Asia explains, “The Church fears that the rule of a military government, who in the past has always been protective of their Buddhist culture and tradition, will have serious implications to the Church. They are expecting further restrictions upon the church to happen once again, though they are unsure of the extent and the form it will take as of yet.”
Opening the Way
In the Shan state, which borders Thailand to the south, pastors were waiting for their next phase of training. “I managed to get the training material printed in Thailand a few months ago,” explains the Harvesters Director, “but with all borders closed, there has just been no way to get the material in the hands of the students in Myanmar.”
“Over the course of the last few months we have been praying and trusting God to open the way. And He sure did!”
Brother Chaw*, one of the prominent church planters in the Shan state, has a sister, Khin* who is a frontline worker in Myanmar and crosses the Myanmar-Thai border once every two weeks to transport necessary medical supplies provided by the Thailand government.
When she enters Thailand, her vehicle is searched to make sure that no illegal migrants are brought into the country, and when she leaves, the vehicle is searched again to make sure no “illegal” goods, except medical supplies, are in the vehicle.
When Khin heard about the need to get training material into Myanmar, she did not even hesitate to suggest that she would “smuggle” the printed training manuals from Thailand to Myanmar. If she gets caught with the “illegal” goods in her vehicle, then the material would be confiscated, she would be given a huge fine or risk being arrested by either Thai or Burmese border officials.
As Khin was about to cross the border back into Myanmar and waiting in a long queue, as per usual, the officials asked her to open the trunk to do a routine check. The two boxes with Harvesters training material were right in front of their eyes and when they asked what were in the boxes, she boldly said, “These are educational books, teaching people about obedience.” Looking at the long queue of vehicles still to search, the border official, without asking further questions, closed the trunk and let her through.
Her brother Chaw was waiting for her on the Burmese side and when she gave a big smile, he knew that she had managed to get the books across. He immediately called our Regional Director and together they prayed, thanking God for opening the way to provide the student pastors with the necessary training material.
Prayer Points for Myanmar
- Pray for the violence to end. Pray for peace to prevail in a country torn by conflict.
- Pray for restoration of democracy. Pray that the military will cede control and hand power back to the elected government. Pray for God’s peace, justice, and righteousness to be established in Myanmar.
- Pray for Harvesters’ Burmese pastors. That they are able to share the Gospel without repercussions. Pray that the Church does not suffer any further restrictions in Myanmar.
- Thank the Lord for the willingness and sacrifice of Sister Khin* who risked her own personal security to grow the Kingdom.
*Names changed for protection.