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Peacemaker has seen and experienced religious persecution firsthand


Minister from Myanmar will be one of 14 International Peacemakers visiting the U.S.

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Thang Van Lian

LOUISVILLE – Growing up in Myanmar, Thang Van Lian has seen religious persecution up close.

Most recently, it has been persecution of Rohingya Muslims by the military in actions that the United Nations called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The people, concentrated in the northern part of the country, have faced violence, destruction of their homes and persecution such as denial of citizenship and not being counted in the most recent census. It has led many to make perilous journeys to neighboring Bangladesh.

Christians in the majority Buddhist nation face persecution themselves, which Lian has experienced and will discuss this fall as one of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s 14 International Peacemakers. The Peacemakers will be traveling around the country to visit with churches and other groups from Sept. 13 to Oct. 7. Mid-Councils (synods and presbyteries), clusters of congregations, and educational institutions may apply to host a peacemaker.

“I have been in the ministry as a Presbyterian pastor in Myanmar for almost 20 years now,” Lian wrote in response to questions submitted to him by the Peacemaking Program. “Growing up in a poor and rural village, I have come across various hard times and life-threatening situations. Being an ethnic Christian and serving as a pastor in Myanmar have taught me many lessons.”

Lian was ordained in 2003 by the Tedim Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar. He served as Assistant Lecturer at Tahan Theological College from 2010 to 2012, worked as Executive Secretary for the Tedim Synod at the Synod Oce from 2013 to 2016 and has been involved as a member of several boards and committees in the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar General Assembly.

More recently, he has experienced life in the United States, attending Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and living and pastoring in nearby Clarkston, Ga., a community known as the most diverse square mile in the country.

“I see and live with them and learn from them how life looks in America,” Lian writes of the many refugee communities in Clarkston.

In Myanmar, Lian learned and has shared the importance of education in helping lift people from poverty and oppression.

Many communities in Chin State, Lian’s region of Myanmar, do not have middle schools and 75 percent of the villages don’t have high schools. Most people in his village stop school at fourth grade, Lian writes. But he was able to finish his education and the church in Myanmar has been able to support a scholarship program to help students with no middle or high school in their villages get an education.

“Parents have been struggling, working their shifting cultivation fields all day, and that’s how people in the area survive from hand to mouth,” Lian writes. “Looking back on the last 20 years of my personal and Church scholarship program, I know and see many children and young generations have come (through) their high school, and some of them even graduate from college, having their own jobs in different towns and cities.

“Many of them become agents of change for the Church and society too!”

Participating in the Peacemaking Program, Lian says, is an opportunity to share experiences and ideas with Americans and other peacemakers and build understanding.

He writes, “I pray that God will lead and bless this program so that I can help American people to know and participate more in promoting peace and doing justice with the voiceless people around the world, like my country.”

Click here for the application to host a Peacemaker.

Read more:

Peacemakers will tell churches about Matthew 25 work around the world

Surrounded by hopelessness, her message is one of hope

Peacemaker has helped educate thousands in southern Africa

Peacemaker has been working for racial justice in Europe

Cuban Peacemaker inspires with ‘liberation word’ of the Bible and MLK

She works to bring healing to those around her

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