It is really hard to keep reading about the persecution of Christians in other countries, when we are powerless to physically do anything about it. But we need to keep our eyes fixed on our loving and powerful God, for whom nothing is impossible!
The Myanmar military has intensified its offensives against the ethnic nationalities of Karen, Kachin and Chin States since the coup on 1 February, with shocking use of force against unarmed civilians. Also all the access to food, goods and gasoline from outside the state of Kayah are blocked. Unable to sow and cultivate, the people are now dependent on aid.
The Irrawaddy reports that on 8 June junta forces burned 80 bags of rice, three barrels of cooking oil, dried food, medicines to treat diarrhoea, and two vehicles (including an ambulance) in Loi Ying village, Pekon Township, after fighting the day before forced locals to flee.
Since mid-May some 40,000 predominantly Christian ethnic Chin have been displaced as the military expands its brutal war. Churches, monasteries and camps housing the displaced have been attacked with heavy artillery.
It seems the junta is engineering famine as a weapon of war. 'We entrust ourselves every day to God,' said Father Celso Ba Shwe, 'praying that, through these trials and difficulties, he may once again give a peaceful and prosperous life to the people of Myanmar.'
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) has appealed for a “humanitarian corridor" for thousands of displaced people who face starvation. Surely the international community cannot simply watch these human rights violations taking place and do nothing!
Hindutva is a militant Hindu nationalistic ideology which maintains that India -- indeed the entire subcontinent -- is the homeland of the Hindu race. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a self-confessed and proud supporter of Hindutva.
Hindutva notHinduism, but a political tool through which religion is exploited for political gain. Hindutva missionaries propagate fear, demonizing Muslims and Christians as invaders who threaten social cohesion and national security.
Muslims are stereotyped as prolific breeders and terrorists while Christians are accused of being complicit with foreigners in international conspiracies aimed at weakening India through religious conversions.
India's current COVID crisis has been sourced to the month-long Kumbh Mela (Hindu festival) held throughout April in Haridwar, roughly 200km north-east of New Delhi. Held every 12 years, the Kumbh was not due until 2022. However, with critical state elections looming, the ruling party wanted to hold it now! And so, the accepted astrological advice said the festival - long known to be a super-spreader event - could be brought forward by a year.
Hindu devotees from all across India descended on Haridwar in their millions, caught the virus, and then shared it freely while on their journey home. Indians are starting to realise that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP – Modi’s party) does not have the welfare of the people at heart.
Another development in India is a law that came into effect on 1 June, in India’s north-western state of Gujarat which Christians fear will erode the Christian character of church-owned schools, and eventually bring them under the control of the Hindu nationalist state government.
Papua’s cycle of violence
In raids commencing on 28 May, Indonesia's counter-terrorism squad arrested 12 Islamic terror suspects in Papua's south-eastern Merauke regency. All were members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah(JAD), one of several jihadist groups threatening to wage jihad in the Papuan Provinces. They had been preparing to attack police stations and several churches throughout Merauke. While the immediate plot may have been neutralized, the jihadist threat remains.
Meanwhile in the Central Highlands, state terror continues. Protestant pastor Reverend Laban Hagabal of Kingmi Church Papua was shot and killed in a pre-dawn raid. Thousands of mostly Christian Papuans are displaced; many in the bush. The internet remains down, and the region remains closed, hunger and death loom.
Speaking from Papua's capital, Jayapura, Catholic priest Father John Djonga explains that as soon as Jakarta labelled Papuan armed groups 'terrorist', it gave Indonesian troops a licence to 'shoot anyone'. Experts at Melbourne University agree, warning that the anti-terror approach will 'further embed a culture of impunity for state violations of rights' and 'fuel the cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of many ordinary people, from schoolchildren to pastors'.
On 25 May a group of Church leaders met with Co-ordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD and offered to mediate talks between the Indonesian government and Papuan armed groups. With thousands of ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian, indigenous Papuans now displaced throughout the Central Highlands - many without food, clean water, medical aid or shelter - it is urgent that military violence cease and that a door be opened for humanitarian assistance. Human rights-affirming democracies must take a stand against Indonesian state terror in Papua.
We need to pray
Loving and merciful God, there are so many people around the world who need your protection in the face of Islamic jihadist terror and state-sanctioned military violence. Provide the Church with everything she needs to navigate, endure and survive these horrendous days of war, displacement and hunger.
Lord in your mercy, grant Christian leaders engaged in mediation, advocacy and decision-making an abundance of wisdom, discernment, creativity and authority. Let them be channels of healing and hope in these days of crisis, grief and fear.
Lord, move in the hearts of those who bear false witness against Christians, that they may repent and confess so that truth and justice might prevail and so there might be forgiveness, deliverance (from the 'father of lies'), salvation and reconciliation to the glory of Christ.
Lord God, may humanitarian corridors be established so that food, clean water, medicines and shelter might reach those most desperately in need. May God provide world leaders with creative strategies and political will so that international pressure might be effectively applied.
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