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Fifty years, fifty countries: Myanmar

Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia and is bordered by India, China, Laos and Thailand. It’s an incredibly diverse nation, with 135 official ethnic groups and 119 different languages. Sadly, this has often led to sectarian violence. Last year saw the exodus of hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya people to neighbouring Bangladesh, fleeing violence in Northern Rakhine State.

Gideon Heugh | 02 Aug 2018

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in Myanmar.

Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia and is bordered by India, China, Laos and Thailand.

It’s an incredibly diverse nation, with 135 official ethnic groups and 119 different languages. Sadly, this has often led to sectarian violence. Last year saw the exodus of hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya people to neighbouring Bangladesh, fleeing violence in Northern Rakhine State.

However, working through local churches, Tearfund is encouraging reconciliation between different groups.

Helping those in need
Thiri* is the pastor of a Baptist church in a rural village. There are just 30 Christian households in this otherwise Buddhist community of 130 families. Due to limited job opportunities – resulting from climate change and the disappearing forest – many of the men have been forced to migrate in search of work.

In the past, relationships between the different faith groups have been strained, but this is changing. Pastor Thiri’s church has opened an Early Childhood Development Centre, which is available to the whole community. Although a nominal fee is charged to cover the running costs, the church has been able to financially support those who are vulnerable.

Pastor Thiri recounts how there was a widow from the Buddhist community who was struggling. The church provided space for her child to attend the centre free of charge. Later she became ill, so the church helped her with some of the medical expenses.

‘The Buddhist community began to wonder why the church was helping the family,’ explains Pastor Thiri. ‘Although they are not our relatives, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, so we must help.’

Hope and unity
Tearfund has been supporting local partner organisations in Myanmar since 1997. The work is varied, and includes everything from supporting faith groups addressing hidden issues such as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), to encouraging key decision makers to address environmental issues and develop policies that favour the poorest.

We also support the church and local organisations to respond to the impact of natural disasters.

Although the church is small and poor, there is great hope and unity. ‘We know that we need to work together, and that God is with us,’ says Pastor Thiri.

PLEASE PRAY

If you would like to know more, please visit our Myanmar page. And if you've missed any other articles in this series you can find them here.

*Name has been changed for security purposes.

Gideon Heugh


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