Tuesday, Feb. 1, was the one-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar that spiralled the country into chaos. Amidst the chaos, the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) continues to move forward with its ministry. “The daily reports we are getting from Myanmar of shocking acts of brutality by the military junta is heart-breaking,” said the Rev. Philip Woods, World Mission’s associate director for strategy, program and recruitment. “Our partners are not deterred though. Standing together they are determined to support each other and resist the junta. Our prayers and solidarity, as they have told us, mean everything to them, for they need a cloud of witnesses.”
Rev. Ramthanga, PCM’s general secretary, said the church has discussed the need for oxygen generators and additional space for Agape Hospital, which is operated by PCM. At the planned General Assembly in February, they will discuss whether to relocate Agape Hospital to the Children Development Centre compound.
Currently, the hospital site is in the centre of town and has no room to expand. The Child Development Centre is on the edge of town near PCM’s Tahan Theological College and is a much larger site.
In a recent communication, Rev. Ramthanga wrote, “With the political situation here in the Kalay region, there are many fighting between. The Junta uses artilleries and (sometimes) airstrikes. Many villages are destroyed, and people fled to other villages and jungles. Many villagers fled to Kalaymyo and Tahan according to their ethnicity and religion. Now, PCM also hosts some of these displaced people at Tahan Theological College. We have 30 guests (refugees). It is most likely that the number [of] displaced people [is] increasing because their children can learn basic needs in TTC. (Tahan Hmarveng Church opened an informal school at TTC, teaching the children English, math, Burmese, and Mizo literature).”
He said the situation in Myanmar, especially in Chin State, is deteriorating day by day. More displaced people are fleeing and hiding in unsafe places, fearing an increasingly ruthless military crackdown. There is a need for humanitarian help everywhere.
Reuters recently reported that the U.S., Britain and Canada jointly imposed sanctions against members of the Junta in Myanmar, including Min Aung Hlaing, who serves as the commander-in-chief.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the joint sanctions are a demonstration of international support for the people of Myanmar. The United Nations is also preparing to help facilitate prosecution against those who have committed atrocities.
From 1962 through 2011, military regimes controlled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. But in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1995 Nobel Prize winner and a former political prisoner, led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to victory in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years.
During the February 2021 coup, the military arrested the then-75-year-old leader, cut internet services, took control of the airwaves and announced Min Aung Hlaing was running the country.
The military justified the takeover by alleging widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 general election, which gave Suu Kyi’s party an overwhelming victory and dashed the hopes of opposition-backed military leaders that they could take control democratically.
“As I work with ecumenical partners from around the world, we are all frustrated, concerned, and heartbroken as we walk with siblings of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar as well as other organisations,” said the Rev. Mienda Uriarte, coordinator of World Mission’s office for Asia and the Pacific. “We all wish there was more we could do to help. Of course, we do pray and hope and trust that God’s realm will be realized in this situation.”
Widespread protests continue throughout the country. Prayers are requested.
Article by Kathy Melvin, Presbyterian News Service
Banner image by Rev. Philip Woods