Working Together in Burma

Karen State, Burma

4 May 2024

May 4, seven years ago, was the day that one of our Rangers, Shaheen, was shot saving a family from ISIS in Mosul, Iraq. He gave his life that others could live; he was a Yezidi man and died saving an Iraqi family. Now, seven years later, we have not forgotten him or stopped missing him. Here in Burma, the situation has gotten worse, but in spite of all the losses we and others have suffered, we do have hope and we are grateful for people here who are dedicated and brave like Shaheen – people who willingly put their lives on the line for others.

There are many such people in Karen State, where the pro-democracy Karen ethnic army (Karen National Union – KNU) is fighting side-by-side with ethnic Burman defense groups. They are willingly risking their lives for each other. For the first time in history, there’s a large scale unity between the majority Burman people and the ethnic minority peoples of Burma. Together, they are slowly pushing the Burma military out of areas it has invaded. The dictators unleash infantry supported by heavy artillery, jet fighters, attack helicopters, and transport planes converted into bombers to attack their own people. They target innocent villagers and farmers from all ethnic groups, as well as those in the resistance. Recently, in eastern Karen State, on Easter Sunday, they bombed a monastery where people friendly to the Burma Army were hiding. The people thought the Burma military would never target them, especially while they where in a Buddhist temple. The bombing killed eight and wounded 15. All over Burma the military is killing their own people and attacking with a speed and force we’ve never seen before.

FBR’s part in this is to provide help, hope, and love and to get the news out. Our medics work at the front lines, treating and evacuating the wounded. They serve in casualty collection points and provide love and assistance to the displaced civilians as well. Our teams have also begun providing aid to families of the dictator’s government and some of the wounded or surrendered Burma Army soldiers themselves. It is a great blessing to help our enemy. Before, we did not have the opportunity to meet with these people and they continued to treat us as enemies. But now, as we help them in their time of need, they can see we love them and some of them love us in return. We are able to build new friendships that were not possible before. This care, forgiveness, and reconciliation feels like the way the world is supposed to be.

We have served these past 30 years in Burma at the invitation of the ethnic groups and their governments. Our relief teams are from 16 different ethnic groups spread over the country, operating in most of the conflict areas. We work closely with the medical, health, and welfare departments of the resistance. Since the coup three years ago, we have also established close relationship with the Burman Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and People’s Defense Forces (PDF), especially their medical services. The CDM and PDF doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers give high level, expert care and we work in partnership with many of them.

We work with other groups such as Earth Mission Asia (EMA), who provide world class training, clinical and emergency care, and surgery. We also serve with Stronghold Rescue and Relief, which provides very efficient and life-saving ambulance services as well as medical support. These two organizations give life-giving and life-saving care as well as develop much needed emergency medical infrastructure. They are also our friends. The founder and leader of EMA, Dr. Mitch Ryan, his family, and others there, helped to found the Jungle School of Medicine alongside FBR and continue to help us in many ways. Ephraim Mattos, the founder and leader of Stronghold, volunteered with us in Iraq in the battle against ISIS in 2017. On multiple occasions Ephraim risked his life to save others. Many times he used his body as a shield to give others a better chance of survival. Since that time he has developed Stronghold into an effective humanitarian organization providing medical care, transport, and local  improvements. It is a blessing to partner with such passionate and skilled people in providing emergency medical services and humanitarian assistance. Jesus said, in the context of a spiritual not physical battle, that “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” We are proud to stand beside those few workers, dedicated and brave like Shaheen, who are risking everything for the healing of Burma. And our prayer is the same as Jesus’, that God would send more workers, because the physical and spiritual harvest is great.

We also pray for our enemies, in this case the dictators of Burma and their army. We pray that freedom, justice, and reconciliation will continue to grow. We believe that love wins and we see a new unity growing in Burma based on love and a desire to be free. This unity crosses social, political, economic, racial, tribal, religious, and organizational lines; ethnics and Burmans, as well as people around the world, serving together for love and freedom in Burma. In Shaheen’s story, that of a Yezidi who served and gave his life for Iraqis, we see the same thing. Thank you all so much for all your love, help, and prayer for all of us here.

Thanks and God bless you,

Dave, family, and FBR