Tahan Theological College is hosting people displaced by attacks
by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — In a country where violence has been the norm since a 2021 coup d’état, recent airstrikes against villages in Myanmar escalated over the weekend, displacing hundreds more people from their homes and separating families and their livestock.
According to church partners on the ground, fighting between the People’s Defense Force (PDF), the pro-democracy military force, and Sate Administration Council (SAC), the governing military junta soldiers, has increased. SAC helicopters are bombing villages, including the village of Letpanchaung in the north located near Tahan Theological College (TTC).
The TTC campus, which is part of the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar, is currently hosting many of the displaced individuals. More have been moved to other church camps, including the Methodist, Evangelical Free Church of Myanmar, Seventh Day Adventist and Nazarene churches. There is concern the governing military will burn down the villages and residents will never be able to return.
In a social media exchange between church partners, one person commented that villagers’ “hearts are at their home worrying about their animals, pigs and poultry.”
Another noted, “that is our new normal life in most of the towns who dwell in Chin ethnic groups. We need to sacrifice our lives if we want freedom. Please just pray for us to bring back democracy in our country.”
According to Hery Ramambasoa, World Mission’s area coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, the protracted violence, against which Christian communities have been working for several decades, continues to be a major concern.
“We pray for a rapid resolution in this conflict, which is causing humanitarian disasters throughout the country,” Ramambasoa said. “Piety and harmony are part of the Myanmar culture, so the power of prayer and nonviolence is important to the peace, reconciliation and rebuilding of the nation.”
“Alongside with other ecumenical partners in different parts of the world, the PC(USA) is following closely the situation in Myanmar,” Ramambasoa said.
Since the coup in 2021, it’s estimated more than 2,600 civilians have been killed in the civil war and 16,500 people have been arrested. In remarks made earlier this week at Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day, coup leader and military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing pledged to deal decisively with pro-democracy opposition fighters he called “terrorists.”
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a southeast Asian nation bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. It’s home to about 54 million people. The Presbyterian Church in Myanmar has about 30,000 members and has been a global partner of the PC(USA) for several decades. The PC(USA) supports the work of the Agape Hospital and the Theological College in the northern part of the country.
Earlier this year the Presbyterian Mission Agency sought to bring about awareness of Myanmar’s complex history and social and economic development through a series of webinars, including A History of Christian Mission in Burma and Social and Economic Issues. These have been rescheduled to undetermined dates due to the increased violence. The World Mission Facebook page will provide up-to-date information as it becomes available.
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