At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am sharing this with you. What motivates me to write again is the golden rule. I want to do for children in conflict what I would want done for my own. Simple.
The systematic abuse of Rohingya people in West Burma has gone from bad to worse. Last week the remaining NGO’s who had an MOU with the government were forced to leave the area and fly back to Rangoon. Their buildings, including those belonging to the UN, were destroyed.
The survivors of recent massacres are largely unheard from as there are no observers of their suffering or the outcomes among the survivors. By government mandate, access to the Rohingya is blocked. For this reason there is very little detailed news about what is going on, but the news we get is much worse than anything we have ever heard before.
One of our friends in a large population of refugees sent word yesterday that “…doctors are treating muslim patients very badly now at Sittwe hospital. Most of the patients sent to Sittwe hospital die these days. I am afraid that people’s doubt about rakhine doctors killing muslim patients is true.”
Another friend is trying to help a boy who suffers from diabetes, asthma, and multiple health complications due to sustained denial of adequate food, shelter, and health services. The photos I have show an emaciated boy in the arms of his father, obviously close to death.
We are trying to help him get medical care but where will he get it, even if we can find the money to pay? When he suggested paying a bribe to the police to get him transported to the nearby government hospital, he wrote that it may be the quickest way to end his life, not save it. In his email this morning he wrote: “Also today there was a body returned from Sittwe hospital of a pregnant woman who died while in their care, and the child was lost as well. The injuries on her face suggest very much she was beaten or worse.”
Another friend who lives in the camps wrote yesterday that, “There is no medical care at all for patients. Family members just have to sit and watch the patients dying. It has been more than a week now IDPs are facing food shortage. Many families are starving now.”
Genocide, according the Oxford Dictionaries is “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group:a campaign of genocide”
What I write about today is that. Genocide. The proof is in Burma’s government policy, described in the recent report by Fortify Rights and confirmed by Human Rights Watch, the New York Times, and most of the worlds leading news services; it is in the well documented process of removal of rights and identity of an entire ethnic group; it is in the many violent massacres and riots that have resulted in a massive loss of life.
Why is this not making news headlines? April 7th was the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, where the world community declared: “this will never happen again”.
It’s happening again.
I beg you to join Partners Relief & Development in our efforts to help the survivors and prevent the slaughter of these wonderful people. Please re post the news as it is released and raise your voice with local and federal politicians. Tweet, post, blog, and in every way spread the word.
And please, if you can, join us by giving funds. Our team is working on aid delivery and other survival enhancing actions now. This costs money.
One generous donor has given a $30,000. matching grant as incentive to help the Rohingya. That means the gift of $30.00 that I just donated turns to $60.00 to help the Rohingya people. Just go to this donation page, click one time gift, and in the drop down menu, select “emergency relief.” All funds donated to this crisis in the month of April will be matched.
I just gave $30.00 so the Rohingya children can experience the freedom and fullness that my daughters have every day. Please join me.
My journal is haunting me. I peel back the formerly rain soaked pages of 2013 and stories crawl off the page and smash my soul with a steely right hook. The interviews that rumble with life and push at the binding, demanding to be read and considered, are those I wrote down in Sittwe, West Burma, last May.
They are a catalog of human injustice and misery. Kyaw Hlaing said,“They killed my father”, Aung Win grieved out loud when he said, “they arrested our 16 year old son, took him away”. Another grieving man said, “they raped my wife”, and others went on reflecting that “we are the lucky ones who survived”, and “we have no hope.”
The interviews were done inside of a detainment camp where 140,000 men, women, and children are forced to eke out survival with almost no help from international aid agencies who are prevented from assistance by the government who calls these 1000 year residents of Burma, “illegal immigrants.”
Our team at Partners Relief & Development ran a clinic for 6 months and crisis management/relief work for a year and a half in that particular camp. Most of the people we helped had their homes burned down, possessions taken from them, and were on the receiving end of every sort of violence, as police and soldiers stirred up ethnic prejudice between them and the majority ethnic people, and turned it into a riot that resulted in hundreds of brutal deaths and the destruction of 5000 houses. Each day our team treated hundreds of suffering children. In many cases the intervention saved lives; in others, our help was physically futile. Children died waiting in line or died while getting treatment from one of our many brave volunteer doctors. Crying with the survivors was all we could do at that point.
Things have gotten worse. The 140,000 people we have concentrated on are still in the same camp, surrounded by barbed wire, with little outside support. Doctors Without Borders was thrown out of Rakhine State three weeks ago, removing what little medical help was available to the victims of terrible violence. The reason? They told the world community that they treated survivors of a massacre that happened in West Burma the preceding week. In other words, the massacre that the government denies having occurred, Doctors Without Borders confirmed.
I received this on Sunday, March 16 from a friend: “I’m getting desperate messages from a dear Rohingya friend whose village is burning down this morning. At the moment his house is still standing but many others are gone. Not sure how many yet. He’s saying 1000 homeless, crying, no food or anything. Another quarter of the village burnt down there a few days ago (that was 130 homes).”
We are still trying to find ways to help them, but being prevented by the same state initiated violence that has killed and displaced thousands of Rohingya villagers in the first place. In fact, the proof of State level collaboration is so compelling, that Fortify Rights International released a report with leaked documents and changed laws by the government to marginalize and strip the Rohingya of their basic rights. Now they are killing them.
Ask yourself: who do you turn to when the police force and army are the ones inciting the riots and in many cases doing the killing? Who tells your story when so much of the media and access to it depends on the power of the perpetrators?
There are millions of people who suffer terrible injustice at the hands of their own government in Burma today. I feel it is my duty and privilege to “do for them as I would have them do for me” and to do more than talk about God’s love, but show it “in action and deed” (1 JN 3:17-18) My journal haunts me, but the one I call Lord convicts and motivates me with a standard of love that cannot stay indifferent to the injustice that is happening to these people.
There are four things we can all do now.
- We have a very generous supporter who has agreed to match every dollar given towards emergency relief this month. That means if you donate ten dollars to help the children in conflict, it is matched and becomes $20. Please join me and give if you are able.
- Pray for Burma.
- Join our team and become a Partners advocate in your city. Click here for details.
- Stand up for the children of Burma by writing your senator and participating in the US Campiagn for Burma’s advocacy efforts.
Our team is working with new networks of people to creatively access the survivors. Thanks for joining us as we seek the freedom and fullness that is ours for the children of Burma.
Rob Kilpatrick is Partners Relief & Development’s international Board Chairperson. This reflection about what his grand kids mean to him and how that makes him love the grand kids in Burma is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do.
Originally posted on Oddny's Blog:
I am going to convince some 40 youth that missions is cool. Before that I am also going to convince my family to do the house cleaning for me. I am not sure which challenge is bigger. It is possible that I will wake up tomorrow feeling like both my undertakings failed.
In preparing to talk to the youth I have asked myself what I think about mission myself. I was once a missionary, you know. So I better know what it is and why it is important. The first important thing to realize is that the Bible actually doesn’t say anything about mission or missionary.
The second thing to understand is that the meaning of mission or missionary is not to go to another country and tell the people there that they will go to hell unless they change their religion, their culture, their diet and their friends. There…
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Partners Relief & Development has a team member in Bangladesh right now who is meeting victims of the recent violence against Rohingya people in West Burma. Today he met Aisha,a survivor from yet another destroyed village. This posting describes how his village was attacked and burned down, and how members of his village were lost, killed or taken away, including his two year old daughter.
Aisha heard the military vehicles and then saw large army trucks full of soldiers and extremists who were armed with guns and clubs. They drove into Killadong Majarpara, his village in West Burma and home to 2,500 other Rohingya Muslims. It was 11:00 pm on the 22nd of January. Knowing the multiple and brutal attacks so far, he quickly found his way out of the village to look for a safe place to hide.
While he was running, the mob of soldiers and extremists beat and killed a number of his fellow villagers. Four bodies were found with gunshot wounds and 12 more are missing. The news he heard so far is that 700 women and children were taken in large trucks to a “prison.”
Finding a place in a nearby village he sent for his wife and 7 children. After they were reunited on the 23rd, they and 8 other families paid a boat owner to take them from the shores of Burma, to the Southern-most tip of Bangladesh. Once they were on board, Aisha took inventory. He found his mother, father, wife, and 5 of his children. He counted again and, frantically, a third time. His precious two-year-old daughter was not in the boat. He had no idea where she was.
The boat owner wouldn’t return because of the danger it would put him and the 8 other families in. Aisha sat sobbing on the floor today describing these events to our team leader. He recounted his ordeal, especially the trauma he continues to experience because he had to leave his two-year-old daughter behind.
They were fortunate to make it to the other shore and get away undetected by Bengali authorities, whose policy is to immediately deport them back across the thin strip of ocean that divides Burma from a peninsula of Bangladesh.
He begged for a place to stay in an unregistered camp of refugees numbering at least 100,000 souls outside of Cox’s bazar. With no food, clothes, blankets, or any other life-essential provision, they settled into their square footage of misery. A kind neighbor gave them a piece of plastic to keep the rain off of them.
Our team leader met Aisha today and heard his story. He ended with a description of his village being burned to the ground last night. “How do you know it was your village?” our team leader asked. Aisha replied that he talked to his brother who is still trapped on the Burma side of the border and he confirmed it. “We could see it from here too,” he said. “It’s only 28 kilometers away and it lit the sky.”
Our team leader then asked him if he had any news of his two-year-old daughter. Looking down at the floor, he just said “no.”
Our team leader gave Aisha enough money to get blankets for his family, for his mom and dad, and to buy cooking pots and the basics they will need to survive. He prayed for this Muslim leader. He asked God to bring peace to his country so he can go home, and that, somehow, peace can come to his heart so he can be comforted.
For those of you who support our work with the displaced people of Burma, thank you. Aisha is one of the thousands of people this month who can say they encountered true compassion this month; that a small faith inspired group reached out to them, embracing tremendous risk to find ways to help them and strive for justice.
It is your support that makes our work with victims of war possible. I am deeply grateful for you and offer this story as a reminder to pray, share this story, and give as you feel moved by the same spirit that moves us.
We may possess a small light, but may we uncover it, and let it shine.
May we use it to bring more light and understanding
to the hearts and minds of men and women.
May we give them not hell but hope and courage.
May we preach, and practice, the kindness and everlasting love of God.
(I found this in my drafts and loved it, so posted it tonight. I think it comes from a Wild Geese publication. Awesome, Isn’t it?)
After my last post some of my friends have emailed me some great questions and comments. They are smarter than me but social media illiterate. Paul, my good friend in Colorado actually confessed that he had no idea how to post a comment to my blog. Hopeless genius.
So I’m going to post those questions and some thoughts in reply here. I would appreciate any feedback and am grateful that I am not an island when it comes to Burma; thousands of people care and are informed and recognize MLK’s quote as a quote for us all, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“I would avoid direct name and blame calling of Burma’s present incumbent leader as a ‘war criminal’; he may be so and likely is, but I think a better approach is to call for the appropriate international tribunals and due process, lest we simply become the name callers without a direction and recommended next steps. I recall being in the UK at the time when trade embargoes were lifted against South Africa; that lifting of sanctions is recognized as being instrumental in opening dialogue, diplomatic channels, and free trade that helped give momentum to the abolition of apartheid. We may not like it, but idealism isn’t the way the world works, even though I would like it too. Is there a way that we can work with the current situation in Burma, including those we may not like or would wish to work with, to improve things for all? I don’t know. The wheat and the chaff always co-exist…especially within me. He may be ‘our’ enemy, but he is also becoming the darling of the west and of ASEAN countries too….money always talks loudly.”
Thanks for this. I do understand the need to be tempered with my words and not just be a name caller. After all these years and the daily dose of lies coming from his desk (while his forces kill my friends) I don’t know what else to do. He is a war criminal. It is well documented that under Thein Seins
command, 45 separate documented cases of rape in Shan State alone, 40 years leading the charge to displace civilians, enforcer of the 4 cuts policy in Karen State (therefore responsible for thousands of deaths), and an audacious liar to the world community. Did you know he was the commanding general after cyclone Nargis, responsible for blocking aid and relief access to the survivors?
I’m not trying to leave out the possibility of change and reconciliation, but the truth is that he is a criminal. It may be more productive to focus on what we hope for (international tribunal and ICC action) in our publications. I’ll seriously consider that Paul. It’s been 20 years since I started working with the victims of this regimes abuse and being moderate barely gets a hearing. Even releasing major reports about the crimes seems to have little impact.
(b) No private property in Burma: property rights is nine-tenths of the law (Blackstone, I think, probably a wrong attribution)…might suggest that the inclusion of clear, equitable and defended property rights are an integral part of the new Burma constitution. How do we help with that?
I agree that we need to keep calling on the regime to establish just laws and a process that includes the stakeholders- the people. Until the rule of law is established and the constitution reformed by a participatory process there will be no substantial changes. I think this is why Suu Kyi is silent on the human rights issues, because she wants to work her way into political power with constitution reform as a primary agenda item. It’s not on the agenda now.
(c) What should be done…? We won’t change the fundamentals of free market economics and the jungle of capitalism by throwing stones only. What’s our alternative, why is it better, who benefits, how is it defended, how is it monitored, how does the wealth of Burma bring peace, fairness, rights for all – I think that’s what has to be outlined in the piece too – the better way and some very creative solutions. Here’s my pathetic attempt; (i) companies engaging in trade in Burma must complete a full human rights analysis of the effects of their investment and trade (ii) companies investing in Burma must complete a detailed environmental impact assessment (iii) companies running operations in Burma must make a full assessment of worker conditions, hiring practices and inclusivity of all ethnic groups….these sorts of things maybe…?
Yes! If companies did this they would be a constructive force for change, instead of further enabling the dictatorial government. My experience suggests that those concerns are not primary in company conscience or diplomatic relations but secondary.
Dick Cheney was the CEO of Haliburton when he negotiated and agreed to construct an oil pipeline that divided Mon state, killed and enslaved thousands of people, and displaced even more. When asked how he felt about that on CNN, he didn’t defend himself but said that his job was to earn shareholders money, and “that’s what I did”
How can we propose your recommendations in the context of the historical lack of will?
What do I propose as an alternative? The cessation of violence would be a good start. But a process and steps are something I’ll have to chew on a bit more Paul. There are many advocates who write on this that are more informed and articulate than me. Lets start with looking at what Fortify Rights has to say, and what Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Burma expert, Ben Rogers has to say.
John (name changed to protect identity) wrote:
Superbly done! I like it a lot and don’t see it as controversial.
The one thing I thought was since the SPDC regularly uses proxy armies to do the worst of the dirty work, it allows for denial. It also leaves room for the naysayers to counter what you’ve written.
When Joe (name changed) and I were in northern Shan State, (and visited the village surrounded by opium fields) everyone voiced their hatred for the KDA (Kachin Democratic Army) and had no experience with the SPDC.
On a somewhat related note, you and I need to go to that village. Preferably during opium harvest. There’s a story there that nobody knows.
John, the proxy army issue is one that a lot of people don’t know about. In a nutshell, the regime bribes weak members of the population they want to dominate, arms them and puts a uniform on them with a local branding, and says the fighting that happens (under their own command) is done amongst themselves. Classical divide and conquer. By last count there were 14 proxy armies fighting as though they are independent, though controlled entirely or partially by the regime.
I love your passion brother. Lets do something about the injustice. Lets let those people in Burma know they are loved and not forgotten.
And now friends, I close my channel to focus on decorating our Christmas tree and celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. He is our hope. Merry Christmas.
In Bloomberg Businessweek today, it is reported that Burma’s opium production has increased this year by 26%. They say that the reason for the increase is desperation among poor people. UNODC’s Myanmar Country Manager Jason Eligh is quoted saying, “Opium farmers are not bad people, they are poor people. Money made from poppy cultivation is an essential part of family income.”
Roughly 192,000 households in Myanmar now work in opium production. “Villagers threatened with food insecurity and poverty need sustainable economic alternatives,” says Eligh, “or they will continue, out of desperation, to grow opium as a cash crop.”
Another reason the articles on my RSS feed this morning give for the rise in production is a rise in demand. They credit “organized crime” for being the culprits who both represent demand and supply the illicit poppie mash by purchasing it for 500 dollars per dry kilogram – a huge incentive to people who can’t keep food on the dinner table, send their children to school, and have lost their possibility to provide for themselves.
Question: who is “organized crime?”
If you answered the Burma Army or the regime itself, you are a smart cookie. Here’s how it goes:
The Burma Army has a policy of self-sufficiency. Each General has to “live off the land.” In Burma that means live off the produce and on the muscle of villagers and tribal people. And the compensation the villagers get for this exchange is their homes burned down, churches desecrated, and their men forced to porter for the regime; they carry their own produce to fortified compounds for the thieves (I mean soldiers) to consume it. Then they kill you after they make you watch them take turns on your wife.
This is life under the black boots; life where the police and military are the criminals and control everything including the judicial system.
There is no private property in Burma. So the farmers who have worked the land for the last thousand years actually only “own” their land based on community arrangement. The central government, so called elected officials, have absolute legal control of the land and the contents of it.
When an energy company eyes a particular river that has not been developed for hydro generation in Kachin or Shan state and offer the “government” to buy this land and develop it, chipping in a few percent of produced electricity to power homes in Burma, they sell it, leaving the villagers in a lurch.
Then they force the people who live there to relocate to a place they have prepared for them. How nice of them, right? Wrong. Many of the villagers see no alternative but to accept the relocation “offer” the soldiers have made. And guess what industry often awaits them at the relocation site? You got it: opium.
Or golf. Yes, you can also be relocated to Shan State to construct a golf course for the criminals (Generals and parliamentarians) who run the opium trade.
It takes decades to cultivate land for rice farming, because it’s all done by hand. Irrigation canals need to be carved out of rocky terrain with primitive tools to draw water from one valley to another. Fertile valleys able to support the growth of hungry communities are where they lived for generations. What I have seen and heard is that relocation sites have neither the water to restart life, nor the good soil needed to sustain it.
The ones who wait it out often relocate after construction has already begun, because of abuse, and the glaring fact that they are standing against an unbeatable foe. Those who hold out until the very end retreat only as the water rises, flooding their precious farms forever.
With gold, tin, jade, and molybdenum: same story. Oil and natural gas: ditto. Poor you who were born where natural resources lay waiting to be gathered, and where your rights as a human being were never recognized.
Another report I received from the Trans National Institute describes the “reform” process in Burma in terms you may appreciate:
“…after over 30 months of the Thein Sein government, political transition continues to be military-dominated and top-down, with essentially the same ruling elite in political and economic authority as under the former State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) regime. Hopes remain that, through political negotiation, democratic reforms will be achieved which lead to just and inclusive solutions. But as the countdown to the 2015 general election begins, concerns are growing that essential reforms will not be delivered.”
My terms are less sophisticated: lies, continued violence, and cunning deception. Thein Sein is a war criminal and his government are using foreign direct investment and development (charity and diplomatic) funds to kill children in Burma. The entire platform of hope is built on broken promises.
How many people have to suffer and die before the promises start coming to pass?
While the diplomatic community twirl that question through the noodles of bureaucracy, Partners Relief & Development will keep starting schools, development projects, clinics, and feeding the masses of displaced people who lack shelter, rice to eat, and sanitation. We will do this because we were asked to by Jesus who himself offered these words as his manifesto:“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18)
I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.
After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.
— Wendell Berry in A Timbered Choir