Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 477 | Wed 07 May 2008
Pioneer American missionary Adoniram Judson arrived in Burma in
1813. He was 24 years old and Burma was a hostile place. Judson
laboured for six years before seeing even one convert. In 1828 a
former slave and hardened criminal named Ko Tha Byu became the
first ethnic Karen to receive Christ. By God's grace Ko Tha Byu
became a mighty evangelist. After 18 years of ministry Judson
observed in 1831 that a 'spirit of inquiry' was spreading across
the whole land. Operation World (2000) estimates that Burma is now
8.7 percent Christian. The 70 percent Burmese majority is strongly
Buddhist, whilst the ethnic minorities are predominantly Christian.
In 1962 the Marxist-influenced military seized power in a coup.
Foreign missionaries were then expelled and all private (mostly
Christian mission) schools and hospitals were nationalised.
Political repression and isolation escalated further after the
major crackdown of 1988, and again after the junta received an
influx of arms and military hardware in 2005. The junta is no
longer defined by ideology but by its addiction to the perks of
totalitarian power. Its violent, corrupt, discriminatory and self-
serving regime fuels resistance to its rule, which the military
then violently represses. Thus goes the perpetual cycle of
A genocidal conflict is presently being waged against the ethnic
Karen. (See 'Burmese Darfur: The Silent Genocide of Myanmar',
Spiegel online, 6 Sep 2007.) This has created around 540,000 IDPs
(internally displaced people) in eastern Burma and forced some
200,000 Karen into refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. Most of
these refugees are Christians.
The United States 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA)
decrees that the US Commission of International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF) designate as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) those
countries whose governments engage in or tolerate systematic and
egregious violations of religious liberty. Burma has always been on
the USCIRF's CPC list, being re-designated a CPC most recently on 2
May 2008. Over recent years the increasingly desperate and paranoid
junta has escalated its efforts -- as its official policy states --
to 'destroy the Christian religion in Burma'.
On 3 May 2008 the 190 km/hr (120 miles/hour) winds of Cyclone
Nargis ripped through Burma's Irrawaddy delta. The toll of injured,
dead and missing is spiralling upwards at a horrendous rate. On
Tuesday 6 May Burma's state television reported that 10,000
perished in the town of Bogalay alone. Rescue operations will be
difficult due to the remoteness of the disaster region which is a
major rice-producing area and home to 24 million people. The risk
of disease is high. However, Cyclone Nargis has blown open a door.
The junta that has kept Burma closed, isolated and violently
repressed for decades has now issued an appeal for international
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO --
* work through the affliction caused by Cyclone Nargis, to deliver
Burma from its affliction of violent, repressive, totalitarian
rule; may he open the ears of multitudes of Burmese to the
gospel of Jesus Christ.
'He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ears
by their adversity' (Elihu, Job 36:15 ESV).
* bless all Burmese pastors, Christian leaders and teachers: inside
Burma; in the refugee camps; in the Burmese diaspora; and
especially those who are presently fleeing or suffering in
terror. May the Holy Spirit fill the leaders with the wisdom,
faith, grace and strength to shepherd the Lord's flock through
these difficult times.
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
PRAY FOR OPENNESS AND LIBERTY IN BURMA (MYANMAR)
Whilst Burma's 70 percent ethnic Burmese majority is strongly
Buddhist, the ethnic minorities are mainly Christian, thanks to the
labours and sacrifices of 19th Century American pioneer missionary
Adonirum Judson. Today, Burma's corrupt, repressive military junta
views the church as a prevalent threat and so seeks to destroy it.
The junta also represses and persecutes the mostly Christian ethnic
minorities and is waging a genocidal war against the ethnic Karen
in the east. Isolation and repression escalated after a major
crackdown in 1988 and again after an influx of arms in 2005. But on
3 May 2008 Cyclone Nargis ripped through Burma's Irrawaddy delta,
killing many tens of thousands. So a door has been blown open: the
junta is requesting international assistance. Please pray that God
will bring openness and liberty to Burma.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON BURMA SEE
< http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/country.asp?s=id&urn=Burma >
< http://www.prayforburma.org/ >, < http://www.freeburmarangers.org >
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.