Rangers Experience Loss and Hope Alongside IDPs in Karenni State

Karenni State, Burma

30 June 2024

Rangers providing vaccinations during a clinic serving displaced people.

New Rangers on their first mission in Karenni State have helped hundreds of displaced families replace fear with joy, with their laughter during Ranger programs drowning out the sound of mortars on the frontline. Most of these families have been displaced for over two years, living with only the few belongings they could carry with them when they fled from their homes after the coup. The war rages in their neighborhoods, and these IDPs (Internally Displaced People) pray for the day they can go home, leave the tarp shelters they live in, and no longer have to dig bunkers to hide from falling bombs and artillery.

Kids mirroring Rangers doing GLC songs and dances.

GLC (Good Life Club) programs are a light to many of these families and especially the kids. Rangers from all over Burma sing, dance, tell jokes, and share the gospel in IDP camps. During the program, FBR teams meet with IDP camp leaders, receiving reports of the IDPs’ brutal situations, hearing stories, sharing God’s love, and reminding them they are not forgotten. Stories of the Burma Army attacking their villages are sadly common.

Marie, an IDP camp committee member, told us that in May 2021 she ran from her village with only what she could carry in her arms when the Burma Army conducted a surprise attack. The Burma military launched mortars and airstrikes on her defenseless village and two of her cousins were captured and killed by the Burma Army as they tried to run away. With tears in her eyes, Marie described going back to collect the remains of her cousins for a funeral, after the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) re-took the village. “When the Burma Army was pushed out of our village, we went back to bury my cousins, but at that point they were only recognizable by their shirts.”

Each IDP committee we met shared stories of similar atrocities from their experiences with the Burma Army. For example, on the 3rd of June, 2024, a Burma Army jet bombed Demoso, wounding one woman who was running for shelter, the same day as our GLC program nearby. We share in their loss, as over 60 of our teammates have died providing humanitarian relief since FBR began, and over 30 of them just in the last three years.

Threats and danger are not uncommon to IDPs, and yet they still strive for a peaceful life. Some IDP camps have been established since 2021, while others are as new as January 2024. Besides security, their most crucial needs are food, tarps to shelter from the rainy season, and education. Teachers who fled alongside their people try to continue to teach with what little supplies and finances they have. Many of them live off the generosity of other IDPs with little to no income. Due to supporters around the world, on this mission to Karenni we were able to give 1,330 families support for food, while also supporting seventeen schools.

Praying for protection and provision.

When we asked them for prayer requests, most people said, “Please pray we can go home, and that Burma would be peaceful.”  One IDP camp leader from See Bah Out camp (established May 2022) said, “Please tell the people of Burma not to be discouraged, we are going to win. And for people around the world, please help us.” These requests represent well the ten different IDP camps we met with and their desires for peace and going home.

During this mission our team also awarded one of our wounded rangers the Free Burma Ranger Star of Valor and Wounded Cross. He was trying to save people under fire when he stepped on a Burma Army emplaced landmine. He was on the same team as Sai Htwe or “Shine,” who was killed here last month; thinking of all the losses his team has suffered brings tears to our eyes. Although their situation is discouraging, the joy and hope that shines through the faces of children and adults shows the heart of those fighting for a free Burma.

Thank you and God bless you,

Suu, family, and the Free Burma Rangers

Rangers perform encouraging songs during GLC program.

Getting the kids involved.