Displaying items by tag: Myanmar
The UN expects five million people to flee Ukraine. The world was already facing the highest levels of displacement on record. The war in Syria killed 400,000 and destroyed healthcare, education, and infrastructure, forcing millions to cross treacherous waters to safety. An estimated 745,000 people crossed the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh after violence erupted in Rakhine state. The rapid movement and huge influx of Rohingya refugees put massive strain on existing refugee camps like Cox’s Bazar and on the host communities who are supporting new arrivals. Every day 37,000 people across the world flee their homes due to persecution or conflict; 26 million people flee their homes annually due to climate-related disasters; and one in five refugee or displaced women are estimated to have experienced sexual violence. In this season of global recessions, pray for adequate financial donations to be given to agencies delivering life-saving aid to refugees. Pray for ample food, water, sanitation, blankets and shelters to reach the vulnerable.
More than 5,600 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since the military seized power on 1 February 2021, according to an independent research institute, which called the death toll ‘unprecedented’ in the country’s history. This number includes those killed by security forces during anti-junta protests, in clashes between the military and pro-democracy paramilitaries, while held in detention, and in revenge attacks. At least 1,831 civilians were killed in shooting deaths; the largest number occurred in war-torn Sagaing region, where junta troops have faced tough resistance from the People’s Defence Force (PDF) paramilitaries. The clashes have displaced tens of thousands of residents since the coup. A PDF member claimed that those who report paramilitary movements to the military have been targeted because the opposition is ‘handicapped in manpower and weapons’.
People's Embrace is a Facebook page helping soldiers defect. The banner says 'Assistance to police and military personnel’. Myanmar is engulfed by an increasingly deadly civil war, which began when the Tatmadaw, the armed forces, seized power last year. Now, with hundreds of volunteers, an underground network armed with Facebook and Telegram accounts is helping disillusioned soldiers and police officers to defect. ‘We advertise on Facebook that those who want to leave should contact us on Telegram.’' said Mr Lay via an online link from an undisclosed location inside the country. With the Tatmadaw out to infiltrate their network, he is wary of divulging many specifics about how they operate, but several ex-Tatmadaw soldiers have broadly described how the operation works. These activities come with massive risks: if they were captured they would be executed. Myanmar's civil war has turned increasingly violent after the overthrow of the civilian government (NLD).
On April 8, in Mandalay, approximately 40 soldiers from the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) raided Sacred Heart Cathedral during Lent preparations searching for gold, money and ‘hidden weapons.’ They held scores of worshippers hostage for hours, including Archbishop Marco Tin Win. They claimed to have been tipped off about weapons being hidden in the clergy centre. When the vicar general of the Archdiocese explained that the only money they had was donations raised for the poor, he too was pushed into the cathedral. The ongoing assaults against churches and religious leaders should not be ignored by the international community. They intimidate Christians, they also occupy, desecrate, and loot churches across Myanmar.
Since the 2021 coup which deposed Myanmar’s democratically elected government, the Burmese military has been attacking its own civilians. The junta that controls the government continues to destroy religious buildings with artillery attacks and airstrikes on civilian areas in the Christian-majority Chin state. Residents in some regions have formed militias to resist those destroying religious buildings (often used as shelters during attacks). In Chin state, over 35 churches and 15 other Christian-affiliated buildings were destroyed between February 2021 and January 2022. In Kayah state 12 churches were destroyed in the same period. In May 2021 the military continuously shelled Sacred Heart Church in the capital of Kayah state, killing four who were sheltering there and causing extensive damage. Myanmar’s cardinal published a plea to the regime, urging them to stop targeting religious buildings. The military ignored his request and are continuing to shell many more churches.
The Horn of Africa is in crisis with drought and food insecurity. 20 million are impacted or in need of aid; pray for the survival needs of both livestock and humans to be met after three failed rainy seasons back to back. In Somalia 4.3 million people are hungry, and people fear a repeat of the 2012 famine. In Ethiopia, the drought is compounding the humanitarian disaster of the war in the country’s north, while in neighbouring Kenya’s pastoralist zone, the loss of cattle is triggering raids and clashes between communities. In Myanmar farmers say the 2021 coup worsened food insecurity and is nothing short of a disaster. Humanitarian needs multiply and continue to spiral. One million people needed aid before the coup; now it’s 14 million. 500,000 people have been displaced since the coup, a quarter of the population is food insecure and violent new conflicts spread in a new wave of anti-coup militias. ‘There is fear everywhere’, one aid worker said.
Myanmar’s military has murdered civilians and used them as human shields. Soldiers have attacked homes, refugee camps, and even churches in Karenni State. The actions may amount to war crimes. The group Fortify Rights says the military has committed these crimes with internationally supplied weapons. They urged the UN security council to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar. It has been just over a year since the military seized power from elected officials. Civilians are learning how to fight back. They are being more strategic and using more guerrilla warfare tactics. A defector from the military, who fled with his family to India last year, reported heavy military casualties while fighting civilian rebels in the Chin state. Leaked documents describe soldiers being attacked by as many as a thousand rebels at a time. Pray for Myanmar’s fighting to give way to peace and justice.
Buddhist nationalism is strong in Myanmar, and Buddhists continue to persecute the 4.4 million Christians. Christian converts are persecuted by families and communities for ‘betraying’ the Buddhist system. Communities aiming to stay ‘Buddhist only’ make life for Christian families impossible by not allowing them to use community resources such as water. Myanmar is also the scene of the longest civil war in the world, and believers are vulnerable to persecution by insurgent groups and the army. The Covid pandemic has brought added challenges, since many Christians are deliberately overlooked in the distribution of government aid. Also on Christmas Day the charred bodies of at least 35 civilians were found in a Christian village; they had apparently been shot by the army the day before and then burned. At least 23 church buildings and over 350 civilian homes were burned or destroyed in Chin state between August and December.
A third Covid wave hit Myanmar amid ongoing violence from February’s coup. A ministry leader said, ‘This morning the wife of one of our workers cried on the phone, “My husband is struggling for breath. We need oxygen.” I asked our driver to go as soon as possible for a two-hour drive. The military frequently stop vehicles and confiscate oxygen tanks and medicines. Local missionaries drive for eight to ten hours to provide life-saving medical equipment and food aid. These days are mourning and weeping days. We are fighting the seen enemy, the military coup, and the unseen enemy, Covid. Many die by guns, bombs and Covid. Much violence is random. A pastor’s wife was killed in their house, a woman was killed while riding a motorbike toward the hospital. Since we have no government, no hospital, no government doctors and nurses, we search for private doctors and nurses that are available.’
Since the February 1st military takeover, at least 1,045 protesters have been killed by security forces, and over 6,000 are currently in detention. The UK’s foreign ministry said it would impose an asset freeze on conglomerate Htoo Group of Companies and its founder Tay Za, who is involved in arms deals on behalf of the military coup leaders. The military junta has shown no signs of halting its brutal attack on the people of Myanmar and the UK with its partners will continue to restrict the junta’s access to finance and confine the supply of arms used to kill innocents, including children. The US has sanctioned Myanmar’s Minister of Information Chit Naing, Minister for Investment Aung Naing Oo, Labour and Immigration minister Myint Kyaing, and Thet Thet Khine, the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, as well as three members of the powerful State Administrative Council and their families – who are linked to the military coup.