In a home in North London in the 1970s a very gentle Baptist leader, a Karen from the north of Burma (now Myanmar), shared what was happening to the Christian community there. The stories he told were hard to believe because they were so horrifying, but his clarity and detail confirmed that they were utterly real. He spoke of Christian children being herded into the jungle by Burmese troops to be used as minesweepers; every time an explosion occurred, another child died. The suffering of the Christians was unknown, their stories untold, their voices unheard and their cry unheeded. Yet, there was no anger or hatred in this Christian leader. Rather, he spoke of the faith and courage of the Christian community, who wanted to maintain their faith, to live freely and to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Burma attained its independence after 60 years of British rule, at 4.20 a.m. on 4 January 1948, the ethnic minorities in the north of the country expected that they would be given self-rule. Britain had been administering Burma as two entities, ruling directly in the south, but giving the north the power to organise their own affairs through their tribal rulers and chiefs. The south was populated primarily by the Burman majority ethnic group, but the north was inhabited by a number of ethnic minorities, such as the Karen, Chin and Kachin. However, at independence, these minorities were handed over to the Burman majority, and for many years afterwards they suffered cruel oppression, with the UK government washing its hands of them. For years, the Burmese government oppressed not only the minorities, but even their own Burman people too. With some degree of freedom developing in recent years, the Burmese government turned its wrath on to the Rohingyas, a mainly-Muslim ethnic group, which had to flee to Bangladesh and surrounding countries. But the plight of the Christians in the north – the Karen, Kachin and Chin – has continued to go unnoticed, until very recently.
The international community is at last waking up to the ethnic cleansing and the potential genocide of the mainly-Christian minorities in the north. These areas were evangelised by missionaries from Britain, the Commonwealth and the USA. The churches are strong and vibrant. The faith of these Christians is truly remarkable. They have weathered massacre, mayhem and disaster, and have continued to maintain their faith. Many have yearned for Bibles and hymn books, which thankfully Barnabas was able to help them with in the last two years. And they desperately need food and humanitarian assistance; Barnabas Fund is one of the very few agencies working in this war-torn region to meet these practical needs.
The plight of these faithful Christians must not go unheeded. Can you pray for our courageous brothers and sisters? Can you write to your MP and raise the concerns for the safety of these imperilled Christian minority peoples? Can you be a part of making this situation known?