Myanmar's Minority Groups in Need of Prayer as Atrocities Continue

Two UK-based human rights groups have designated Dec. 5-11, as a week of prayer and fasting for the Karen, Karenni and Shan peoples of Myanmar (Burma).
( [email protected] ) Oct 22, 2004 08:39 AM EDT

Two UK-based human rights groups have designated Dec. 5-11, as a week of prayer and fasting for the Karen, Karenni and Shan peoples of Myanmar (Burma). The agencies have also called for weekly prayer and fasting for the three people groups until there is a "radical improvement" in the situation and the atrocities against them have stopped.

The Jubilee Campaign and the Karen Action Group, which announced the call for prayer last Friday, say that the Burmese military's systematic atrocities against the Karen, the Karenni and the Shan peoples amount to "genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity" as defined under international law.

"Words cannot sufficiently describe the barbaric atrocities which the Burmese troops are inflicting on the Karen, Karenni and Shan," said Wilfred Wong, Jubilee Campaign's researcher and parliamentary officer.

As reported by the agency, systematic atrocities include summary executions, rape, torture, forced relocations, forced labor and the destruction of villages, crops and livestock. “This includes burning children to death in their houses, impaling young children on sharpened poles, gang raping of women and girls, and crushing babies with rice pounders,” the Jubilee Campaign wrote.

According to the group these acts have created a "humanitarian catastrophe, including widespread internal displacement and food shortages." An estimated 650,000 members of the three groups are refugees, hiding from the Burmese army in the jungle with little or no food or medicine, and are usually killed on sight.

In a recent report released on Oct. 20, the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) said that the military regime of Burma (also known as Myanmar) has engaged in systematic genocide to exterminate the ethnic minority groups since coming to power in 1988. Two of them, the Karen and the Karenni, estimated to number up to 14 million, widely practice Christianity and are thought to be the largest Christian group in the country. About 40 percent of the Karen people and the majority of the Karenni are Christians.

Similar to what the Jubilee Campaign reported, the WEA RLC wrote that the military junta's atrocities, aimed at eliminating the Karen and Karenni people, include using human minesweepers, random killings, looting and destroying entire villages and farmlands, widespread rape, imprisonment of Christian leaders, and compulsory labor in relocation camps.

“The army forcibly conscripts young men leaving Sunday worship services, as well as children and teenage girls who are often raped,” the RLC reported. “Adding to their malicious deeds, soldiers repeatedly show their contempt for Christianity by disrupting worship services and forcing congregations to dismantle their church sanctuary, using the materials to rebuild Buddhist monasteries.”

Despite peace talks between the Karen National Union and the government, which began earlier this year, the Burmese army is reportedly continuing its pillage, rape, and violence against the Karen.

UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that military attacks in July and September on several Karen and Karenni villages resulted in two schools, clinics and many homes being burnt down, forcing villagers to flee to the mountains for refuge. There, believers eventually succumb to the combined effects of severe malnutrition, disease, and fatigue.

Currently, over 350,000 internally displaced people are estimated within the Karenni and Karen regions, as well as more than 100,000 Karens reportedly in refugee camps in neighboring Thailand.

From one such camp, a Christian leader expressed the “need for moral, spiritual, physical, and material support from our brothers and sisters around the world.”

The RLC says Karen leaders are asking for Christians worldwide for support, with prayer as an effective channel for help.