It’s now over a month since the military coup in Myanmar (1 February). Recent days have seen a dramatic escalation in violence, with 52 people now believed to have been killed in the unrest. The Burmese church is going through a highly tumultuous time. Whilst believers are pressing on and adapting, there is fear. Open Doors continues to monitor the situation of Christians closely, and here we have the latest. All names have been changed for security reasons.
The military's response to protests is causing fear amongst Christians - please continue to pray for the country
“It’s been a month and both the military and the protesters do not show any signs of backing down. As instability grows in Myanmar, so does our need to pray,” shares Jan Vermeer, Open Doors Communications Director for Asia. “With the growing violence, believers continue to be caught in-between, and we are concerned for their safety.”
Min Naing is an Open Doors local partner who has been asked to watch out for guards patrolling his street against military activity.
“I was on the security team on the street one night on 19 February,” he shares. “A neighbour asked every man to join community security. He knows that I am a Christian, and he especially wants me to be with them from 12am to 4am. I’m worried that the people might think that Christians do not care about the environment and community affairs, so I eventually decided to join.
“They instructed me to hide when military vehicles passed by. Because of the curfew, we had to hide. They said that if the military vehicles stopped and tried to arrest people who took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), the security team should signal and notify the community so that people can come out and help the arrested people. If the private cars stopped and drop the strangers or robbers, we were all told to confront the private cars. There are two groups of guards who watch and signal with walkie-talkies.”
It was a restless night for Min Naing. “I had to watch the vehicles and did not sit all night,” he continues. “I signaled to them if cars were coming and passing by. All the guards carried sticks and rods in their hands, but I did not hold any stick or rods in my hands. I stayed awake all night in fear. In my heart I prayed to God to protect our street, community and my family.”
Across Myanmar, churches are desperate and determined to gather, but often it’s simply not possible.
“Churches are closed in Yangon, Mandalay and other major cities, while churches in the villages and hilly remote areas have continued worship services,” reports Daisy, another Open Doors local partner. Elsewhere, curfews have brought physical meetings to a halt, whilst sporadic internet blackouts have prevented online services.
"The situation is getting worse. Please pray for peace and the safety of people in the country." 'Min Naing'
The implications of this are worrying. Pastors are struggling to inform and care for believers. Meanwhile, people are confined to their homes, without work and beginning to suffer financial hardship, and this has led to a drop in tithes and donations. “We also hear of field contacts saying ‘no’ to communicating via phone calls due to the security risks," Daisy adds.
“Everyone is scared,” Pastor Thura confides. “I was worshipping with only a few people, but I am afraid that the authorities will come and stop the worship.”
These fears are echoed by Min Naing. “I am also disturbed because I see with my eyes that people are being arrested. It has been five days that we cannot go out in the daytime,” he shares. “The situation is getting worse. Please pray for peace and the safety of people in the country.”
Despite all this, believers are bravely persevering and adjusting. “With increasing restrictions – both online and offline, with internet blackouts and night curfews – believers are finding different ways to be salt and light at this time and to continue encouraging one another,” Jan Vermeer reports.
“We are becoming more and more careful,” Daisy adds. “We have a Bible study programme for pastors from remote areas that continues once a week online. Connection isn’t always stable, but we press on.”
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