Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in South East Asia, has a population of about 54 million.
Of these some 8%, or 4.5 million are Christian, 5% are Muslim, 2% are local beliefs, and the remaining majority 85% profess Theravada Buddhism. The Buddhist Burman ethnic majority dominates and oppresses the other tribal groups, many of whom are Christian.
Myanmar has been governed by a repressive military dictatorship since 1962. During this time they have carried out a systematic persecution of all non Burman tribes, especially when they were not Buddhist. These tribes, notably Chin, Karen, Kachin and Naga, often living in the hill country, have suffered continuously from these violent campaigns. The more recent persecution of Rohingya Muslims has been widely publicised, being loudly condemned by the UNHCR, and international news agencies. Somehow the plight of Christians, who suffer similar persecution seems to have been largely ignored. Sadly it continues still today.
Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, often by aerial bombardment. Tens of thousands have had to flee and are living in IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps where food and healthcare are scarce.
Thankfully in 2015, under a new government, a change of policy has brought greater hope for the future. Sadly it appears that the military are still very much in control and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities continues, albeit to a lesser extent than before.
In spite of this, growth in Christian Churches over the last two decades has accelerated, largely as a reaction to the growth of Buddhist nationalism among the majority population.
Many Bible schools exist throughout the country, and indigenous church planters and missionaries boldly proclaim the gospel. Little progress is made among the ethnic Burman people, but in the ethnic tribes who have suffered so much, churches are growing.
With more elections coming up next year, we can only hope and pray that the situation will calm down, and soon the country will become a more peaceful, tolerant and inclusive place.
• Give praise and thanks to God for the growth in the churches in Burma.
• Pray that the persecution of Christians and other minorities will diminish and soon cease altogether.
• Pray that the new elections next year will usher in a strong government who will stand up to the army and be able to curtail their persecution of the minority groups.
• Pray that those in the IDP camps will have better conditions and will soon be able to return to their tribal homes.
• Ask God to comfort and support all those who have suffered violence and trauma over the previous decades, giving them strength and peace in their hearts and in their faith.
• Give thanks that Bibles are available in the main Towns at a price, but pray that Bibles will freely reach believers who need them in remote villages.