This week marks three years since the military coup in Myanmar. As the situation worsens, many believers are being pushed to breaking point. We caught up with some of our local partners to find out how you’re helping them to reach out to those in need.
Believers in Myanmar receive aid provided by Open Doors local partners
Tun Maung* and Ko Lwin* were on their way to serve believers affected by conflict and persecution when a landmine exploded right in front of their vehicle. “It was only because of God’s protection that we were spared,” says Ko Lwin. “We continued our journey and reached our destination.”
Landmines are not the only challenges facing the pair as they bravely journey to places to provide persecution survival training. There’s also the threat of bombs, as well as the dangers of checkpoints where IDs are checked and plans interrogated.
Every journey that Tun Maung and Ko Lwin make – and those taken by other local partners like them – is a journey of faith, but for them, they’re worth it for the way the training quenches believers’ longing for fellowship and discipleship. And with many despondent by their persistent prayers seemingly going unanswered, the support is going some way to reminding believers that they are not alone.
“We thought God had abandoned us, the church had forgotten us, but thank you so much for coming and teaching us again,” says Nang*, a participant.
“When we went for training, we encountered several shootings and bombings on the roads,” says Min Tun*, another local partner who runs the training. “It seemed like bullets were flying right above our heads, they were that close. It was equally challenging for believers. When they saw us, they cried, as it meant so much to them to have someone there with them.”
It’s now three years since the military seized power in Myanmar. It’s had a catastrophic impact on the country – and there is no sign of it abating.
Once bustling cities and towns, with their lively neighbourhoods and noisy streets, are now desolate and dull. Thousands have been displaced and drug addiction is rife. In many places, food is scarce and expensive, with people lining up for a whole day simply to purchase 100ml of cooking oil. Meanwhile, the fighting rumbles on, bringing with it a fear that seems endless.
"The worshippers died on the spot" Diasy Htun
“The situation in the country is not getting any better, because the war continues in areas where Christians live, like Chin State, Sagaing Division, Kayah State, and even in Kachin State,” says Daisy Htun*, another local partner. “Christians are displaced and scattered all over the country and it is challenging to connect with them. However, our brave local partners are keen to reach out and help.”
It was in Sagaing Division where 17 people, including 11 believers, were killed last month when St Peter’s Baptist Church was hit when a fighter jet dropped three bombs on Kanan village.
“The believers were going to church on the first Sunday service of the year – they were worshipping God in their church when the military air force dropped a bomb on them,” says Daisy Htun. “The worshippers died on the spot. Please pray for us as we grieve with our brothers and sisters in Sagaing.”
Local partners are looking to help those affected by this latest awful attack, but it’s fraught with difficulty. “Currently, we cannot reach the orphans and affected families because they are now displaced, and we do not know their exact location,” explains Daisy. “The situation is delicate, especially after an attack. We are trying our best to get in touch, and we’re praying for the right and safe time to reach out.”
The incident highlights the huge, ongoing needs facing Christians in the country. Prior to the coup in 2021, many believers already faced persecution, but the last three years has seen this worsen. But whether it’s practical, emotional or spiritual support, the local partners are undeterred in their determination bring as much help as they can.
This includes support for pastors, who face the responsibility of caring for other believers whilst they themselves suffer from trauma, exhaustion and other difficulties, to the point of wanting to give up.
“We are displaced but as pastors, we must help our church members, pray for them, and try and help them with food,” says Pastor Aung*. “There are so many expectations from us, but we are also human beings. Sometimes we are physically and spiritually exhausted, we don’t even have enough food for ourselves, and our families complain. We are in a tough situation financially and emotionally.”
"We had almost given up, but thank you for giving us the strength again." Pastor Aung
Pastor Aung was among several pastors and leaders who attended a trauma relief programme led by local partners at a location near displaced settlements. “Thank you so much for coming here and listening to us,” Pastor Aung told the partners. “We pastors can hardly get together like this, let alone have enough time to seek God. The training helps us, and the lessons will be helpful to our members as they are also traumatised. We had almost given up, but thank you for giving us the strength again.”
Another pressing problem for Christians in Myanmar is the rapidly growing availability of drugs. In Chin State, where many believers live, people are flocking to poppy fields because of the stable income it offers – but it comes with dangers.
“Because of the war, the economic condition is deteriorating,” explains Pastor Kam*. “Students cannot continue their education, life is tough. The poppy fields are now seen as a lucrative source of income by believers, however in the fields they are exposed to opium and some even get addicted. I cannot tell them to stop unless I can provide an alternative source of livelihood. I worry about our children's future and the future of the church.”
Poppy fields are far from the only avenue towards drug addiction. “Many Christian youths and men, even women, are battling drug addiction,” says Pastor Vpyi* from Kachin State. “Children as young as eight years old are picking up the habit and drugs are made easily available. We are trying to raise awareness about drugs, but there is much work to be done. The church is also struggling with this problem, we need your prayers and help.”
Thank you for helping brave local partners in their crucial support of our family in Myanmar. Your support and prayers really are lifesaving. The ongoing crisis in the country often slips under the radar, amidst other stories worldwide, but as this latest anniversary highlights, the suffering facing people across the country remains acute. Please keep praying.
*Names changed for security reasons
Find out more about what it’s like to be a Christian in Myanmar, as well as places like North Korea, China, Nigeria and Nicaragua, with our Top 50 booklet. Also includes inspirational stories, prayer requests and updates from the latest report. The resource is free and you can order as many copies as you’d like!
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