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.