Hope in Spite of Two Years of Brutality: Anniversary of the Coup in Burma
1 February 2023
Today, 1 February 2023, on the second anniversary of the coup in Burma, we are with displaced Karenni people in their hiding place, doing a children’s program. The joy on the faces of the children and the laughter from their parents gives us great hope that, in the midst of attacks by the military, there is hope in Burma. Even though the Burma military is coming with a speed and a vicious force that we have never seen before, we also have hope. There is a new unity in Burma that cuts across racial, social, economic, tribal, religious, and ethnic lines. This unity is about Burmans and ethnic people together wanting to find a new way in a new country, based on love, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Right before this mission we were at two churches, one Baptist, one Catholic, in Karen State that had been bombed by the Burma Air Force. A mother, her two-year-old daughter, the Baptist pastor, the Catholic deacon and a villager had been killed with a direct bomb strike on the churches. This has become a common occurrence as the Burma Army targets civilians, and churches, more and more all over Burma. Coming up to Karenni State, we were met face-to-face with 20 severely wounded people including another mother and two-year-old daughter hit by Burma military mortar fire. Their lives were saved by Burman doctors who had left the city to be in unity with and help the ethnic people.
Here in Karenni State there are over 250,000 people displaced and there are attacks by heavy mortar, artillery, armored vehicles, jet fighters, helicopters, and ground troops. This is happening all over Burma, yet nowhere have people given up. The losses have been tremendous, thousands killed by the Burma Army and over 3 million displaced since the coup. We in FBR have lost over 50 rangers, 18 of them since the coup, and that is representative of the losses that are occurring with people all over the country. We all share a deep sorrow with each other for the dead and the wounded and the loss of homes, animals, and property. Yet in the midst of this, we see a new love, and we see new hope and new understanding between different kinds of people.
Just yesterday we were talking with the widows of three villagers and sister of two brothers who had all gone back to their village after it had been attacked. The men were looking to recover possessions and livestock, thinking the Burma Army had passed through. They were all captured, tortured, dismembered, and the three husbands thrown into the village toilet. These bodies were recovered by the local resistance and given a hasty burial as the Burma Army was still around. The two brothers had been decapitated and thrown down into a deep well. Last year when we were here, we were asked by the sister to go retrieve what we could of the bodies to give them a proper burial. The local resistance helped us as we went there carefully, without alerting the Burma troops, and went down in the well by rope and retrieved the skulls of the two brothers. We brought them back up and gave them to the sister. She started to cry but said, “Thank you for doing this. It is a comfort. Now I can give them a proper burial.” We saw the widows and sister again this year at a Good Life Club program. Up to this moment I had never seen any of them smile and the sister who lost her brothers would cry every time I saw her. But this time she smiled at me and said, ”Thank you for coming back! Thank you for helping us!” Suddenly the GLC program transitioned to a dance, and since we are part of the dance, we began to dance and the sister came to dance with us, smiling. Her face radiated joy. She was laughing with us as she danced, and I thought,This is such a special moment in my life, it’s like being in heaven.
When I asked the sister and the widows later, what their message to the world was, they replied, “We pray to Jesus that we can forgive the soldiers who killed our husbands and brothers. We forgive them, because Jesus enables us to. We want the Burma military to stop attacking and we want a new government. Until then we pray for them to change their hearts, and we pray that we can survive and raise our children in peace. Thank you for praying and helping us as much as you can, and as much as God leads you. We also pray for you. And we love you.“ And so this is the face of people in Burma. In spite of destruction, death, and loss, they choose to find joy and they still have hope for a future. We share that hope with them. We are all bound together by love and hope. For us, we find it in Jesus and we thank God for new lives in Jesus and the 11 new Rangers from different races and religions who asked to be baptized right before this mission. We pray people around the world feel moved to give life-saving help to the people under attack but also to bring whatever pressure is necessary to bear that the Burma military would change their hearts or cease to remain in power. We pray for love, forgiveness, justice, freedom, reconciliation and peace for all, in Jesus’ name.
Thanks and God bless you,
Dave, family and FBR