What should I know about Myanmar?
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. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is a vibrant, multicoloured mosaic of more than 100 different people groups, bordering Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China and India.
While church growth was initially slow, today there are over three million Christians in Myanmar (six per cent of the population). Most Christians are from ethnic minorities.
What’s the background to recent events?
Myanmar has a long history of being military-led. From the late 1980s until 2011, Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Aung San Suu Chee) and her party campaigned for a civilian, democratically-elected government. They faced opposition and imprisonment.
In 2011, the military entered into 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 last February?
The NLD was deposed forcefully on Feb. 1, and the military declared a year-long state of emergency. The military promised 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 after decades of inter-ethnic tensions.
How have people responded?
Since Feb. 1, there has been a widespread protest movement. The military has imposed curfews, martial law, and arrested protestors. They have also used water cannons, fired tear gas from fighter jets, used rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse protestors.
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.
What about Christians?
There have been many responses by Christians, but there are two main reactions.
A great sense of national comradery is evident in the movement. For some believers, this political fervor has led them to make statements in theological support for the NLD and to place messiah-like hopes onto “the Lady.”
Others, 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 neighbour as themselves and to pray for God to work in all areas beyond this.
How can we be praying?
- Pray for protection of Christians and that the current crisis will be resolved peacefully.
- Pray that minorities, such as the Rohingya, Chin, Karen, Shan, and Kachin, will be protected.
- Pray for God to convict the hearts of those leaders who are perpetrating violence, so that they will repent.
- Pray that those in detention will hear of the love of Christ.
- Pray for Myanmar Christians to stand firm in their faith.
- Pray for the families of those who have lost their lives during this conflict.
- Pray for Myanmar’s Christians to show the Christ’s love to their neighbours and for those who persecute them.
- 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 and seek to promote peace.
- Christians in Myanmar are facing incredibly challenging 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.
- Pray for those who don’t yet know Christ to be shown love, compassion and protection by His followers and to come to know the Lord.