Our team at Partners Relief & Development just released a video featuring one of our projects in Kachin State, Northern Burma. Love Your Neighbor tells a sweet story that illustrates the simple power of the golden rule.
In July, a Partners Relief Team traveled to Sittwe in Rahkine State to deliver rice and essential supplies. While they were there they took the opportunity to interview some of the displaced Rohingya that had been living under immense hardship in rudimentary camps with insufficient food and non-existent medical care for almost 2 years.
They told them that at the moment the people are saying they want to have a curry to go with their rice. Because all they have had for so long is rice.
“The kids… they pray for curry with their rice”.
Last month, with assistance from our local relief delivery networks and your generous financial support, it was Partners privilege to provide the answer to that request. In August we delivered food support for 9,204 Rohingya which was made up of:
- 380 chickens
- 95 goats
- 32,250 kg of rice
- 1,237.5 kg of dry chilli
- 1,006.5 kg of dry fish
- 2,475 kg of onions and
- 2,475 kg of potatoes.
This small victory represents more than anecdotal evidence of the transformation our team is a part of among populations of displaced and oppressed people in West Burma. It is a clear transforming event, pulled off by the synergy of partnership with people all over the world, on behalf of God, who is love, and behind all our team actions to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
People keep wanting to fix our logo. “It’s crooked, let me right it,” they say. Others helpfully point out what appears to be an obvious mistake, “Hey, someone in the design department made a mistake, your logo is messed up.” For you who have said nothing and wonder why the thing is not on a straight horizontal line, an editorial I wrote about 10 years ago explains why. Here is is:
Partners has a new logo. It may seem like a trivial change to you but to us at Partners it has been the stuff of warfare. Sides were formed and trenches dug. Positions were taken. It’s okay, there were no casualties and in the end we signed a peace treaty. Here are the terms of peace.
The new logo should be slightly off center, like us. Really. It should say that we are committed to the core to our normal-is-over ethos. When people say that we can’t help certain refugees because of politics or find a way to navigate to newly displaced people in a dangerous area, we want to give it a try. God belongs in scary places.
We also recognize that our greatest acts of faith are mingled with the tainted motives and sin that our humanity implies. Okay, so we aren’t perfect but we are in the arena fighting for God’s right to rule and reign. The logo had to be bent like us.
Prayer and action had to be visually represented. Hands are a symbol of people praying. More than that, two hands in an embrace suggest action and partnership. That’s us. While the hands may seem obscure in the logo, the red one joined with a white one (again, slightly tilted) represents our value of dynamic partnership with suffering people.
The logo is framed by four corners. The idea here is that it is a stamp. We want to make our mark on the world for God. We want to do it now, with a sense of urgency, not later when we can afford it or when it is safe.
I led the attack on our old logo. I was the General. I never liked the similarity it shared with the Nike swoosh and always stumbled around trying to explain to people why we chose it and what it meant.
So our team stormed the hill, tore the flag down, and raised this new standard. We hope that you like it as much as we do.
In this issue of Partners World you will find a lot to get your blood boiling. On a recent trip to visit displaced people in Burma my blood did just that. On my second day I met two 11 year olds who were raped by Burma Army soldiers and another who was brutally molested when she was just nine years old.
When you read this month’s articles, please try to keep in mind that the people on the other end of the text are people of value and substance, like your own loved ones. In the reports, updates, interviews, and accounts penned in this issue there are all the elements of our new logo: hands gripped in action and clasped in prayer, heart felt questions asked from our off center position, movement into new areas of Burma where we hope to make our mark for God, and yes, the rhythm of following a God who delights in keeping us on our toes in partnership.
Staying on our toes,
Last weekend I drove Elise, my oldest daughter, seven hours to where she will start going to college. It makes me feel old, not to mention very nostalgic and reflective. My little girl…how can it be that she is not little any more? I try not to worry, but to trust that she will make right choices as she ventures into a life on her own.
As I reflect, I can’t help but ask myself if I have made all the right decisions. Did I teach her the right values? Did I establish healthy boundaries? Have I raised her in a way that has equipped her to make it on her own in the adult world? Have I showed her that what matters most is love, courage, faith, forgiveness, generosity, and honesty? Will she live according to these values, or will she be led by the world that tells her that what matters the most is your looks, your clothes, your income, and your fame?
Following these thoughts, I remember Manha, a girl I met in West Burma last May who was approximately the same age as Elise. She caught my eye as she served sweet, milky coffee and fried pastries at a teashop near a refugee population. A refugee herself and with few prospects, she carried herself with dignity. She took care of herself, made the best of her circumstances, and she was beautiful; she did not look like a victim.
But she is. She lives surrounded by barbed wire. Her loved ones have been violently abused, even killed, and state authorities deny her the opportunity to attend school. She is extremely vulnerable to human traffickers who prey on kids like her.
With this letter and my personal reflections, I am inviting you to help children like Manha. I invite you like Jesus invites us all when He says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matt 7:12)
My daughter starts college in a free country this week. She can choose to study anything she wants. She has grown up knowing she is loved and appreciated. She has lived a life in luxury compared to most girls in the world her age. I hope that along with my love I have also given her a sense of responsibility to care for others, in less privileged parts of the world, such as Burma.
I hope that rather than just talking about fashion and boys, she will share with her friends what she has been a part of her whole life:
Partners Relief & Development supports more than 9000 teachers who instruct 137,000 children in school each day, runs clinics and mobile medical programs treating thousands of children each year, and organizes maternal health care programs for expecting mothers. We fully fund 16 homes in refugee camps for 900 children who have either lost their parents or have no other secure access to education. These are just the first few vital programs that come to mind.
As I am sending Elise off to the next chapter of her life, I would like to send thousands of other girls off to a life a more hopeful than the one they are living now. I want girls like Manha to attend school in a safe environment, be able to get medical help when needed, to live in their own village without the fear of violence, and to be able to pursue their dreams, just like my daughter, Elise.
If you have children you know exactly what I mean. And if you don’t, I’m sure these words resonate with you just the same. A child should not be raised on a battlefield, in a prison, or as a second-class citizen.
Would you help me please? Join me to give Manha and boys and girls like her the chance to thrive this year.
There are two things I hope everyone who reads these words will do:
Partners for Change are people who commit to a monthly contribution of $30. USD This simple act of generosity is how Partners Relief & Development was started and how we continue to this day. Note that $30. is enough to install 3 toilets, fund two teachers for a year, feed a refugee family for two weeks; it is more than what we need to fully support an orphaned child with everything they need each month (The cost for that is $19.25) Please, join today.
Partners Advocates are our local representatives in the United States. We empower them to speak and host events on behalf of the children we reach out to. Learn more about this program and join today.
If you would like more information, please click here.
Elise will be sharpening her mind and her social skills. I hope she continues to cultivate a deep sense of responsibility to the world we live in and to God who keeps it humming along. I hope this for Manha too. Where she is today, with what she has received, my prayer is that God will bless her and lead her into His kingdom that has come, in part, through us.
I’m halfway through with a Masters Degree in vocational practice. The degree, offered by Tabor University, has enhanced my understanding of the issues our team wrestles with as we seek freedom and fulness for children affected by conflict and oppression. This quote from the paper I am reading this morning is one of many that confronts my extreme individualism and lack of a strong social theology. My praxis has been weak and even arrogant because my belief system has been found wanting.
“A church without social ethics rooted in the moral vision of Scripture with its emphasis on justice, mercy, and humility before God is in no condition to avoid irrelevance in relation to the great problems that affect humankind. At best it will concentrate on empty ritualism and private morality but will remain indifferent to the plight of the poor and the rape.of God’s creation. At worst it will fail to recognize its own captivity in the culture-ideology of consumerism and will be used by the powerful to provide religious legitimization to their unjust socioeconomic and political system and even to war.”
The Biblical Basis for Social Ethics, by C. René Padilla
It’s kindergarten stuff really. We should share with those less fortunate than ourselves and help them achieve the dream of security, a roof over their head, and food on the table. I don’t know how I missed this stuff in the bible. I read the thing seven times and memorized long passages of it yet still, I missed the point in significant ways.
I’m digging out of my individualistic arrogance inch by inch and with the effort, a growing sense of fortitude grows in me to do the work my team has dedicated itself to. We are following a good leader who announced his own mission with these words in Lukes account of his life:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
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.
I took this photo on May 16th as Cyclone Mahasen was blowing towards Sittwe, Burma, earlier this year. I was there with my friend, Bruce, helping to evacuate people to higher ground. As the rain poured and the people stood shivering in the wind and rain chilled air, I felt overwhelmed by the misery surrounding me:
140,000 refugees whose homes were burned down, loved ones raped, killed, or abused. Thousands of them hadn’t eaten in days, 5000 of them we were trying to help hadn’t fed their children in 6 days. Many were sleeping in grass huts on a floor of wet mud.
Miserable and desperate, like a chapter out of Dante’s Divine Comedy. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
They weren’t afraid of the cyclone, they were afraid of the police, and they wanted to feed their children.
The police beat them, burned down their homes, incited a city wide riot against them, prevented the delivery of food to help them survive, denied their citizenship, stole their farm lands, and desecrated their places of worship. Welcome to Burma where this is happening today.
Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need. Prov 21:13
I am so lucky because I am the mother of three beautiful and healthy girls. They are not little girls anymore, but young ladies. This fills me with both pride and a sting of sadness too. The years have passed so quickly and the dress-up parties, the barbies, and the feeding of baby dolls are things of the past. I miss it already. Of course, there is a certain enjoyment in sitting on the coach together with them as they are playing with their iPhones too. It’s just a little, shall we say, different.
I have never thought of selling my daughters into prostitution. Not once. Not even when I have been mad at them. Not even when we have been short of money. I can, in all honesty, say that I have never ever been tempted to sell my girls.
Yesterday I read an article that stayed with…
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