Pastor's pen for 21st March - Pray for Myanmar

Downtown Yangon, yesterday or the day before.

It is both helpful and alarming to have friends with close contacts in Myanmar. The news we hear and have to process via the regular media is confirmed, enhanced and made all too real by hearing the details of people's daily struggles.

In excess of 180 (and climbing) democracy protestors have up to now been shot dead by the military and security forces, this is not even to mention the myriads grievously injured, since the authorities started using live rounds to discourage the protests.

It is distressing, but perhaps not surprising to learn that Communist China's foreign minister had a cordial visit with the top elected officials of Myanmar just before the military coup that plunged the fledgling semi-democracy into chaos. China is on official record as describing the coup as a 'cabinet reshuffle'. This same Chinese government calls the steady elimination of the Uighur people and culture within its own vast borders 're-education' and 'anti-terrorist strategy.' The words of George Orwell in his novels critiquing totalitarian regimes seem all the more prophetic in this century.

In observing and praying into this situation, there are signs of hope and sacrifice; a nun kneels before the soldiers, arms outstretched in prayer and blessing, a courageous human shield. A soldier observes the violence and injustice, abandons his gun and his livelihood and joins the protest, a brave stand.

There are so many other acts of courage, resistance and faith amid the cold, fearful brutality of the regime. Let us hope more soldiers see the horror of what they are inflicting for what it is and just stop or change sides. Dare we hope?

There are many smaller stories of love and courage. One I know of is the simple fear of a father worried about going to pick up his son in downtown Yangon, on any normal day a routine exercise, not one you expect to attract gunfire. There are stories of innovation, as the tech-savvy folk of Myanmar set up virtual private networks to skirt around the military shutdown of the internet. This is how we get direct stories and prayer requests from Christians in the thick of it like this;

"The youth from our church and I will go to another refugee camp which is the biggest camp in Yangon today. I have been there. We will give the refugees there 80 bags of rice today. The road is very rough, and it is summer now and very hot too. Please pray for our trip."

Another observation from a medical person;

"Unfortunately justice and peace are not things that happen overnight, it takes time, struggle and heartache. For my friends and colleagues in Myanmar the struggle and heartache continues like a marathon, and the need to stay strong and continue their protest is hard - very hard, especially with the injuries and death they are seeing. On Sunday night (14th) my colleagues cared for over 140 patients with gun shot wounds in Yangon - in 4 of the hospitals, sadly they tell me around 41 died of those wounds. Some ambulances were prevented from getting to nearby hospitals due to road blocks by the military. A really terrible situation (what an understatement)... however I am SO proud of my EM colleagues and their response of care and unity in treating so many patients and preventing the death toll from going higher."

Please hold the people and churches of Myanmar fervently in your prayers, advocate for justice and provide support where you can. It is the task of the church to pray, speak and act. Believe God for His intervention.

The Lord has shown you what is good. He has told you what he requires of you. You must act with justice. You must love to show mercy. And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God. Micah 6:8 NIRV

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