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Attacks on peaceful protesters by military continue to escalate in Myanmar

Presbyterian Church of Myanmar asks for solidarity and prayers

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church Myanmar (PCM) is asking for solidarity and prayer as Myanmar’s military uses machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to attack peaceful protestors.

PCM is headquartered in Kale Township, which has become one of the nation’s hotspots for violence. Anti-regime protestors set up a roadblock to prevent the military from entering. Last weekend the military approached local groups, including churches, to negotiate a peaceful solution.

A member of the church who must remain anonymous for security reasons has been keeping in touch with partners, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), by private messages. Last week he wrote:

“I just came back from the meeting between civilian protestors and military officers in our region. I think we have a successful negotiation for the time being. The military officer who initiated the meeting is accompanied by three pastors and three village leaders. In their words, they ‘don’t want to hurt people and their families.’ It is hard to say we are safe. They have not kept their promises in the past.”

He was right. They did not. The military ended negotiations and attacked. At least five protestors were killed, and more than 20 people were injured.

Members of the Myanmar military roam the streets in Kale Township, the home of the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar. (Contributed photo)

On Feb. 1, just as a new session of Parliament was set to open, Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, staged a coup and the military took control.

The military justified the takeover by alleging widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 general election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won by an overwhelming margin, dashing the hopes that opposition-backed military leaders could take control democratically. The country’s election commission however, declared there was no evidence of fraud during the general election.

Many believe that the coup was instead driven by Hlaing’s personal ambition.

Myanmar’s elected leader, Suu Kyi, has been held at an unknown location since the coup. Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner, led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to victory in the country’s first openly contested election in 25 years. She faces various charges, including violating the country’s official secrets act. NLD members of parliament who managed to escape arrest formed a new group in hiding. Their leader has urged protesters to defend themselves against the crackdown.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 700 people have died since the protests began.

“What is happening in Myanmar is tragic,” said Philip Woods, World Mission’s associate director for strategy, program, and recruitment. “This is no way to run a country.  There can be no winners here until democracy is restored.  People in Myanmar need to know that they are not alone; that we are with them in prayer and in spirit as they continue to resist the brutal militarism of the generals. Living into the spirit of Matthew 25, our church partner, the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, is showing us what discipleship looks like in the face of injustice and we should be rallying behind them in whatever way we can.”

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in South East Asia. It neighbors Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China and India. The country gained independence from Britain in 1948. It was ruled by the armed forces from 1962 until 2011, when a new government began returning to civilian rule.

The ruling military changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989.

In another message later in the week, the PCM member wrote: “It is quite difficult to stand fast in this current situation. Please keep praying for us. We know you are already keeping prayer for us, but it is a relief for me to repeat this prayer request.”

 


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