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January 25, 2010

Burma: Not My Backyard


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“The world needs to know about the genocide that is happening today in Burma.”
— Patrick Klein, Vision Beyond Borders

The Burmese army is carrying out a massive killing campaign against its people, and the world is unaware, Patrick Klein of Vision Beyond Borders told VOM staff.

According to Patrick, who recently returned from Burma and Thailand, more than 500,000 people have been killed in Burma (also known as Myanmar) in the last 30 years. More than 3,300 villages have been burned to the ground by the Burmese military, and thousands of children have lost parents from brutal attacks by Burmese soldiers. About 1 million Burmese refugees have fled across the border to Thailand, where they wait in uncertainty. At any moment they might be sent back to Burma to face certain death.

Even refugee camps in Thailand are not safe from Burmese soldiers. They frequently cross the shallow river separating Thailand and Burma to poison water supplies and kill or kidnap refugees, whom they sometimes use as human mine sweepers. The Thai generals who rule the area work hand in hand with Burma’s ruling military junta regime and grow rich through the illegal drug trade that profits them both.

Patrick said the genocide is both an ethnic cleansing and a reaction against pro-democracy movements in Burma, but it also has a specifically anti-Christian agenda. When the head of a monastery asked soldiers if he should warn Buddhist monks to leave a conflict area, the soldier replied, “No, we are not going to harm the Buddhists. We are only against the Christians.”

One heavily targeted Burmese minority group is the Karen people. Historically Christian, today about 40 percent of the Karen people are Christians. A Burmese official boldly stated recently, “Soon there will be no Christians in this nation. You will only be able to see a Karen person in a picture in a museum.”

In the midst of this horror, God is at work in Burma. Many people are trusting their lives to God. One of the believers went so far as to tell Patrick, “Without this genocide, maybe this worship would not be happening, and people would not be coming to Christ.”

Patrick said he was saddened and horrified by conditions in the Burmese refugee camps he visited. He heard many stories of suffering, but what affected him most was an enthusiastic worship service by a group of 86 orphans who are cared for by a Baptist pastor. “We had a worship service from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Then at 10 p.m., the kids came back and asked if we could go on worshiping! They have little happiness in their lives, but what they do have is the joy of the Lord,” Patrick said.