In my last article I gave a little background to the crisis in Myanmar, with some specific prayer points. This time I will elaborate on the situation there, and mention two other areas in the world – Ethiopia and Algeria – which also need our prayers.
Many civilians are being killed or injured as a result of their defiance of the military junta. It seems as though reaction to military rule may be uniting people who previously did not seem to care about the fate of ethnic minorities.
Most of Myanmar's nine percent Christian minority hail from the long-persecuted Chin, Kachin and Karen ethnic minorities. For a long time, Kachin and Karen ethnic armies have been protecting protesters and providing sanctuary to Myanmar resistance leaders and elected MPs and facilitating their escape to India (via Chin State) and Thailand (via Karen State).
In retaliation, the Tatmadaw (military) has shelled Karen villages and opened a front in resource-rich Kachin state to protect its economic interests there. This has resulted in thousands of Karen and Kachin being displaced, running to the jungle or sheltering in churches, monasteries and church-run camps. These safe havens are also in danger.
There is a China connection: China is seeking a foothold to ‘protect its interests’ because it is supporting the coup. Two Chinese-owned garment factories were torched with Chinese staff trapped inside. It is thought that Burmese soldiers may have torched the factories to draw China into the fray. Conflict has also erupted in other places such as the site of the suspended Myitsone Dam, a China-junta project which would dam the Irrawaddy to produce hydro-electric power for sale to China.
This latest violence erupted after a Facebook post from Mahn Win Khaing Than (acting head of the Committee representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw / Union Parliament) where he urged all long-persecuted ethnic groups to join a revolution to overthrow the military regime.
Meanwhile, Dr Sasa, who is ethnic Chin and Christian, and who was appointed by the ousted government as a special envoy to the United Nations, has been charged by the junta with treason. He has written a scathing attack on the military generals in response to this charge, declaring his stand with the people of Myanmar and claiming that they should be the ones charged with treason.
Ethiopians will go to the polls on 5 June. The polls will pit those striving for a strong, united, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ethiopia against ethno-nationalists, particularly those of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF - a Marxist body) and the Oromo Liberation Front (a secular group dominated by Muslims) who would dismantle Ethiopia along ethnic lines.
A strong, united, prosperous Ethiopia would not merely be a blessing to all Ethiopians, but to Africans across the whole Horn and Red Sea region.
However, militant ethno-nationalists are already killing ethnic minorities, most of whom are ethnic Amhara Christians. On 6 March, gunmen stormed a church in western Oromia State and killed the 29 ethnic Amhara Orthodox Christians who had gathered to welcome in the season of Lent. The killings began in early 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy - a committed Ethiopian and Protestant Christian - enacted reforms to end TPLF hegemony and ethno-nationalism.
This is a battle for the very soul and future of Ethiopia.
Algeria's Presidential Order 06-03 [March 2006] regulates 'religious worship other than Muslim'. It mandates that buildings used for non-Muslim worship must be registered with the authorities. To date, not a single church has been granted registration.
Article 11.2 of Order 06-03 criminalises the making, storing or distribution of any material intended to 'shake the faith of a Muslim'. On 27 February authorities in Oran notified Pastor Rachid Seighir of Oratoire (place of worship) church, and Nouh Hamimi, a salesman in Seighir's Christian bookstore, that they had been fined and sentenced to two years' jail for breaching this Article. This has been a long-running struggle.
The governor of Oran province has defied several court orders to allow Pastor Seighir to open the bookstore. Consequently, the bookstore has been sealed shut for 4 years. Pastor Seighir is also struggling to get registration for his church, despite it being affiliated with the Church of Algeria umbrella body. The interesting point about this is that the struggle has brought Christian churches to the forefront of Algerian consciousness, where before many didn’t know Christianity existed.
Algeria is integral to the Chinese Communist Party's Belt & Road Initiative, but Chinese investment is integral to the Algerian regime's 'New Algeria' dream. Fortunately, as Jayson Casper reports for Christianity Today (CT, 22 February), Algeria's Protestant leaders know where to place their faith. As Salah Chalah, president of the EPA, told CT: 'We love our country and we regularly pray for its prosperity... I would like to ask all Christians in the world to continue to pray for us.'
For Myanmar, that:
* Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts, the commander of Heaven's angelic armies) will protect, preserve, sustain, vindicate and glorify his precious Church in Myanmar.
* Jehovah Jireh (God our provider) will provide the Church's needs (such as food, medicines, shelter, security) and fill every Christian leader with 'the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’ (from Colossians 1:9-14 ESV)
* God our Redeemer will intervene to break the chains of military and spiritual oppression and pave the way for Myanmar to establish itself as a free, open and democratic federation.
For Ethiopia, that God will:
* Intervene in Ethiopia and for Ethiopians, that the nation might be blessed to be a blessing to others; may God grace Prime Minister Abiy with wisdom and strength as he seeks to lead the people into a whole new era of covenanted unity, peace and prosperity.
* Protect, rescue, comfort and sustain Ethiopian Christians displaced by and/or caught up in the crisis in Tigray and the insecurity in Oromia; by the power of the Holy Spirit may they demonstrate grace in the midst of terror, hope in the midst of insecurity and, in the midst of uncertainty, trust in God; may all suffering be redeemed for the glory of God.
For Algeria, that God will continue to build his Church in Algeria:
* Turn the heart of Messaoud Djari, the Governor (wali) of Oran Province since August 2020, that he will lean towards tolerance and acceptance and cease the persecution of Oran's Oratoire church and Christian bookstore. May God intervene on behalf of Pastor Seighir and Nouh Hamimi as they appeal the charges and sentences against them.
* Mercifully intervene to turn the heart of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, that he will lean towards tolerance and openness; may Presidential Order 06-03 be amended or repealed so that the Gospel of Peace may be freely shared throughout the land, from the coast to the mountains to the deserts and beyond.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html