Editor’s Note: The situation in Myanmar is rapidly changing but we provide the information below to help inform prayer for the country. We’re aware we cannot provide a complete picture of this complex situation and the diversity of perspectives on it.
Last updated: 30/03/2021
In Myanmar, thousands are protesting in the streets after the military took control of the country and detained Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.
What is the background to this situation and how can we pray for the country at this time?
What should I know about Myanmar?
Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is a vibrant, multicoloured mosaic of over 100 different people groups, bordering Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China and India. It was one of the first Southeast Asian countries to embrace Buddhism in the 3rd century B.C, although Christian witness in Myanmar dates back over 400 years.
While church growth was initially slow, today there are over 3 million Christians in Myanmar (6 per cent of the population). The majority of Christians are from ethnic minorities.
What’s the background to recent events?
Myanmar has a long history of being a military led country. From the late 1980s until 2011 Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Aung San Suu Chee) and her party members campaigned and lobbied for a civilian democratically elected government. They faced opposition and imprisonment.
In 2011, shifting geopolitical winds resulted in the military opening the door for a power sharing agreement with her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD helped improve the economic status of many during its time of leadership.
What happened in February?
The NLD was deposed forcefully on February 1st, 2021 and the military declared a year-long state of emergency. The military is promising to hold new elections in the near future, to return to shared power, and to remain faithful to previous agreements.
The events of early February come in the context of decades of inter-ethnic tensions in the country, including the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim people in recent years. In some areas, these tensions have increased recently. Although this is not directly related to the military’s recent action, it still calls for the prayers of the church.
How have people responded?
Since February 1st there has been a widespread protest movement. Protests continue to include medics, teachers, students and civil servants from a wide variety of departments who are refusing to work for the military crippling many sectors of government.
The military has brought in curfews, martial law, and arrested protestors. They have also used water cannons, tear gas fired from fighter jets, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse protestors. Reuters news agency reported on 30 March that over 500 people have been killed in the suppression of protests in Myanmar since February 1. On Saturday 27 March alone, more than 100 people were killed by security forces including a number of children.
The protest began in February by demanding that Aung San Suu Kyi, lovingly referred to as “the Lady,” and her party members would be released from house arrest and returned to power.
Since then some members of Myanmar’s civilian elected government have re-formed in exile under the name CRPH (Counsel Representing Pyidaungsu Hlutaw), claiming to be Myanmar’s legitimate government. They have sent representatives to the UN and are seeking their stamp of approval as Myanmar’s true government. The military has responded by declaring that CRPH is an illegal group. CRPH responded by declaring the military a terrorist organization.
The protest has moved away from merely calling for a restoration of the previous governance agreement. Some are now calling for the establishment of a federal democracy under a new constitution. Myanmar has been the scene of the longest-running civil war in modern history continuing over 70 years involving multiple ethnic minority armies fighting for autonomy in their regions. The CRPH is seeking to strengthen their base by including these ethnic minorities, who have previously been excluded. Along with the CRPH’s leadership and international support, this could unify a more diverse base to make this federal democracy a reality. At this point, it appears the people of Myanmar are looking to the CRPH for leadership and hoping that they will be successful, but the situation seems to be far from being resolved.
What about Christians?
A Christian who has been following Burmese social media closely over recent weeks notes that there have been a wide range of responses, but that there are two main reactions.
He notes the great sense of national comradery in the movement and that, for some people of faith, this political fervor has led them to make statements in theological support for the NLD and to place messiah-like hopes onto ‘the Lady’.
Other believers, however, assert that Christian hope should not be in people but in Christ. They believe the ultimate work remains: to love God and love their neighbor as themselves and to pray for God to work in all areas beyond this.
Around 2,000 years ago, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He responded by saying: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom; it is the kingdom of heaven and those who call Jesus their Lord are citizens of heaven. In Romans 13 we read that we are to be subject to the ruling authorities and as believers we should be focused on doing good and ultimately to love. How are believers in Myanmar to live as citizens of heaven? Who are the governing authorities during this current contest? How can Myanmar Christians continue to follow the great commission?
How can we be praying?
Using God’s word
– We invite you to pray over Myanmar using Psalm 1-2 as a guide.
– Pray for God’s intervention. Pray for protection for Christians and the current crisis to be resolved in a way that leads to peace.
– During this time please pray for minorities such as the Rohingya, Chin, Karen, Shan, and Kachin that they will be protected. (There has already been an upsurge of violence against them in the areas where they live.)
– Pray for God to convict the hearts of those leaders who are perpetrating violence, so that they will repent.
– Pray for those in detention and their families, that they will hear of the love of Christ.
– Pray for Myanmar Christians to be established in the word of God.
– Pray for Myanmar Christians to stand firm in their faith.
– Pray that they would be strengthened with all boldness to share the gospel.
– Pray for God to send out laborers into the harvest.
– Pray for Christians to stand firm against temptation to sin.
– Praise the Lord for how he is using these challenges to refine his bride.
– Pray for God to raise up voices within the church calling for holiness and turning other brothers and sisters in Christ away from sin. For believers to walk in the freedom that he has given through his death and resurrection.
– Pray for the families of those who have lost their lives during this conflict.
– Pray for Myanmar’s Christians to show the Love of Christ to their neighbors and even their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them.
– Pray for protection for Myanmar’s Christians against any root of bitterness or un-forgiveness in their hearts.
– Pray that Myanmar Christians would have divine wisdom in the midst of incredibly challenging circumstances.
– Pray for Myanmar’s Christians that they will not put their hope in mortals but in the Lord. (Psalm 146:3-6).
– Pray for wisdom for those in positions of influence outside Myanmar as they respond to the situation there and seek to promote peace.
Pray for Christians in Myanmar:
In tough choices
Christians in Myanmar are facing incredibly challenging situations. Situations where standing up for what is right in God’s eyes could mean being ostracized by others or even worse.
Pray for boldness to follow God in faith and obedience.
In fears, sorrow, and injustices
In Romans 12 we are told to weep with those who weep. This is certainly a time of lament for Myanmar’s Christians. Perhaps questions of God’s goodness, power and intentions have also arisen in their minds. God is not threatened by people’s emotions and questions. Pray that Christians in Myanmar would freely cry out to God and that we would cry out with them. Then pray that their lament would result in a greater sense of God’s faithfulness in their lives and ours.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
When lacking in wisdom or experience
Myanmar’s Christians need great wisdom and discernment to know how to face these challenging circumstances, which they perhaps feel unprepared for. Continue to pray that they will seek wisdom from God, his word, and other Christians who are mature in their faith.
Pray for those who don’t yet know Christ to be shown love and compassion and protection by his followers and to come to know the Lord.
But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.