Violence in country has shifted contributors’ focus
by Hery Ramambasoa | Special to Presbyterian News Service
A video/webinar series highlighting the Christian mission in Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been rescheduled in part due to violence in the southeast Asian country.
Two of the three remaining installments — A History of Christian Mission in Burma (Jan. 12) and Social and Economic Issues (Jan. 26) — have been pushed back to undetermined dates next month. The Ecumenical Prayer Service, which will commemorate the violent regime change in 2021, remains scheduled for Feb. 1.
According to Hery Ramambasoa, World Mission’s area coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, violence in the region has created production issues for the series’ contributors.
“More than 10 houses were burnt down in one village, and this has been going on for several months in Northern Myanmar. In some cases, the army comes back to set fire to more houses, reportedly pursuing armed opponents to the regime,” Ramambasoa stated, citing testimony from an eyewitness.
“Village life is disrupted as many flee to the forest for fear of reprisals and false accusations,” Ramambasoa said. “Farming, school, and business happen only in the morning. In the evening, everyone is on the alert. More and more villagers experience mental disorder, particularly among children and elderly. Some churches were targeted but worship services are still being organized, as best they can. The weight of repression haunts the momentum of mutual aid and other activities, including schools and youth movements, which should be suspended for an indefinite period.”
Myanmar has been under a military regime for over 50 years. The past decade has seen a rise in liberalism. But supporters of the military, who feared losing control over the country, denied the election results which would have brought pro-democratic parties in power. The military continues to repress opposition leaders and sentence them to jail or execution. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration estimates that close to 40,000 people leave the country monthly, with the majority migrating to Thailand and neighboring India.
The Presbyterian Church of 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 Myanmar.
“We would like to reinforce our support for these projects despite the country’s difficult situation and stand in solidarity with our partners who are in the frontiers of mission as a minority church in a context of war and the rise of authoritarianism,” said Ramambasoa. “Little is known about Myanmar in the U.S. and other parts of the world, so this video series was started to provide more knowledge and context around the country, its people and its extremely complex history.”
Watch the first installment in the series, “Christmas Carols with Myanmar,” by going here.
Scott O’Neill of Presbyterian News Service contributed to this report.
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