How are the believers in Myanmar doing?
Daisy: “Some are still living in their own homes, whilst some who live in the warzone have been displaced. They’ve gone to the refugee camps in the country and outside the country, along the borders. Myanmar shares its borders with India, Thailand and even in Bangladesh, so they are scattered here and there. And since they have left their homes, many of them have lost their livelihood.”
How have the increasing attacks on churches since the coup affected Christians?
Daisy: “We are trying, persevering, trying to encourage each other, but many of the Christians have been traumatized – by the war, by the news of killings, by the news of bombings that they hear every day. Some have backslid in their faith, some questioned God.
“Recently, I met with some pastors whose churches had been shot at. The pastors said that they [the soldiers] just shoot at the churches. They do not care if it's a religious place for the Christians, they just shoot. And sometimes, they even rob the churches.
“In Chin State especially, where the majority are Christians, they have been permitted to build big church buildings in past years. These churches are something that Chin believers are proud to have. So seeing the churches taken over, attacked and in ruins is very discouraging to them. They're not only attacking the physical, they're also attacking the faith, the ethnicity of the people, and the people themselves believing in that faith.
"Many of the Christians have been traumatized"-DAISY HTUN
“Despite this, some Christians took the coup as an opportunity to share the gospel with others – they still hold camps and evangelize. The situation is different for different Christians, but it's very challenging.”
What is the condition of the refugees?
Daisy: “To see them [internally displaced believers], it took around 16-20 hours of traveling. They have set up a settlement in the jungle, somewhere in the outskirts, and they created their shelters, many of them using bamboo. We have provided some help with tarpaulin sheets. And so they wrap the tarpaulins around the bamboo structures. If you go inside, there's one raised platform where they sleep. On the floor, they have a cooking area, and then that's it. It's a one-room house for many of the shelters there.”
Over the course of the two-year coup, how has Open Doors tried to reach and strengthen believers?
Lwin: “For believers who are in extreme situations, we provide safe shelters and aid. We are praying with them, helping them with grocery aid, giving them warm blankets and clothes. We make sure to stand by the believers, to help them feel comforted, strengthened and not alone. We have also taught our partners to encourage the persecuted believers by facilitating persecution preparedness training, discipleship trainings, and Bible trainings to strengthen their faith. When we stand with them and pray, they are reminded that they are not alone. There is warmth and unity. We are reigniting the flames of faith in their hearts, strengthening what is about to die.”
Christians displaced by ongoing conflict in Myanmar
In the past two years, how have you seen the church grow?
Lwin: “We’re witnessing believers thirsting for the Word of God! The children and youths show interest in discipleship, too. Our local partner Tun Maung* always says, ‘Before the coup, we had to invite believers to the trainings, but everyone is busy with their own work. Now, the believers come to us, asking if they can attend our trainings, asking when we will conduct the trainings again.’
“Several churches are emptier than before as many Christian youths have migrated out of the country for the sake of their safety, employment and future, but the Christians inside the country continue to persevere. Some of the churches were destroyed, but the believers continue to gather for prayer and fellowship. Christians who are displaced continue to gather and worship even at the place of their displacement.”
What is the vision you have for the Myanmar church?
Lwin: “Our vision for the church in Myanmar is to be a victorious church, which is rooted, flourishing and fruit-bearing. We are preparing the church to face persecution, to be resilient and biblically sound, so that the church will be empowered and dignified, courageous and hopeful.”
What stands in the way of achieving this vision? What are the current challenges facing the church?
Daisy: “Everything is a risk – coming together, gathering for training. Some of the believers who came have been checked by the military and questioned.
“The churches in the cities, other urban areas and places which are further from the war zones gather at their own risk to come together for church services and fellowship. However, both the Christians in urban areas and conflict areas hear bombs and gunshots, which cause them real psychological stress and trauma.”
"We’re witnessing believers thirsting for the Word of God!"-BROTHER LWIN
Lwin: “Christians in the war zones, such as Chin State, Karen State, Kayah State, Sagaing Region and other conflict areas, are facing challenges to gather for worship and fellowship, partly because many churches are burnt, and are no longer safe. Many of the Christians are scattered in different places, making it challenging for the pastors and ministers to continue ministering to the believers. It is tough for pastors and families to disciple the youths and teens who are influenced by the war and threatened by drug abuse – sometimes, the teens are left with only two choices: join the military or join the PDF [the civilian insurgency]. A lot of options have been taken away from them by the coup, and the church is still not prepared to handle this war’s effects on them.
"Moreover, the coup has caused economic recessions and sanctions in the country which affected the Christians as well. It has brought displacement and disrupted the livelihood of the believers, leading to the decrease in the giving to the church.”
What obstacles do our partners face and how can we ask our brothers and sisters all over the world to pray for them?
Lwin: “The challenges that our partners are facing is security. No one is safe. Please pray for their safety and security when they stay at home and when they go out.
“In the urban areas, there are still some Christians who can gather, but secretly because the government has imposed a restriction on the gathering of people. So, they still gather for church, but it’s not a very formal gathering. In some of the mainline churches, they gather because the government also wants to show the world that ‘Myanmar is okay. Everything is working well in Myanmar and even Christians are gathering in the church. There’s no problem.’ But behind all those things, there are many Christians who cannot gather in the churches and cannot gather for fellowship.
Daisy: “For me, at the beginning of the coup, I asked God: ‘Why do you allow this to happen? Why, why, why?’ I had so many whys, it was so tiring. And there were so many people suffering. I remembered the Israelites being in Egypt under bondage. They were asking God to bring them out of their place. For us, sometimes it feels like that. We see a lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot of hurt and destruction. There are many lives being taken away.
“We question God, but there are people who still take the opportunity during this war to share the gospel and that’s what gives me strength.”
What can the church around the world do to continue being one with our brothers and sisters in Myanmar?
Daisy: “Myanmar needs the prayers of the churches around the world. It is shrouded by layers and layers of strongholds, spiritual strongholds, emotional strongholds, fear, anger and distress. Pray for the restoration of peace and stability. Please continue to pray for God’s providence of manna and protection for the believers. Pray that God will reign supreme in Myanmar, that His rule and justice will prevail.”
*Names changed for security reasons
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Open Doors aims to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev 3:2). Your Monthly Donation can help us to provide continuous support to the persecuted church worldwide and enable us to respond immediately to emergencies.