Since last fall, I have attempted writing or editing several articles for the print edition of Baptists Today about the plight of the Burmese people. These articles have not made it to press because the situation in Burma (now called Myanmar) is too fluid to report in that format.
The tragedy of an oppressive military government and the resulting refugees was made much worse by the impact of Cyclone Nargis in early May that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Burmese people.
The same government that has made life miserable for the multi-ethnic population also hindered some of the early relief efforts. The situation is still dire.
Baptists have a long history in Burma dating back to the significant and sacrificial work of missionaries Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826) and her husband Adoniram Judson (1788-1850).
Many Baptists (including the American Baptist Churches in the USA, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) are engaged in helping with relief efforts and care of refugees. So are individual congregations.
Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., has embraced many Karen (“Ka-RIN”) refugees. This ethnic group — mistreated by the Myanmar government — includes many Baptists and other Christians.
American Baptists and the Fellowship have dually appointed missionaries Duane and Marcia Binkley to work with Burmese refugees.
Along with more than 200 other worldwide Baptist groups, ABC and CBF participate in relief efforts for the Burmese people through the Baptist World Alliance.
Caring individuals may also participate in the relief efforts by making direct gifts through this link to BWAid.
Here is the latest update from BWA on the desperate situation in Burma (Myanmar) that deserves our prayer and care:
Myanmar recovers slowly after Cyclone Nargis
Washington, D.C. (BWA) — Two months following the passage of Cyclone Nargis that hit Myanmar on May 2 and 3, reports are that conditions remain desperate.
Rescue24, a search, rescue and relief effort by Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has reported that “there are huge unmet basic needs for the victims of the disaster.”
In a comprehensive 25-page report sent to the BWA, BWAid Rescue24 workers in Myanmar stated that “many families are living under makeshift shelter …made of clothes, branches of trees or even under debris.” The document stated that “most of the water sources are completely destroyed or contaminated with human and animal carcasses. There is no proper facility for storing drinking water.”
The BWAid Rescue24 report lists the most urgent needs as food, drinking water, hygiene products, psycho-social support, shelter and livelihood support.
Conditions have been made worse by the onset of the rainy season which lasts from May to November, and which brings frequent torrential rainfall.
BWAid Rescue24 is working closely with the Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC), which formed the Nargis Relief and Rehabilitation Central Committee.
“The MBC is sending food, drinking water, clothes, mosquito nets and medicine daily to nearly 100,000 survivors who desperately need the supplies. The relief material is being delivered directly to the survivors in the Irrawaddy River Delta areas by ferries, boats and cars from Rangoon,” said the BWAid Rescue24 aid and relief workers.
The MBC Women’s Department, which is also engaged in relief work, informed the BWA Women’s Department that “there are many people who are homeless, as well as jobless,” and stated plans to begin vocational training in some of the hardest hit areas.
Estimates vary widely as to the number of those who have died from the worst natural disaster to hit Myanmar, with figures ranging from 134,000 to near one million dead. Several million more are estimated to have suffered directly from the cyclone. More than 10,000 Baptists have been confirmed dead, and more than 94,000 Baptists were severely affected, losing homes, agricultural fields, and being displaced.
Even though Myanmar is largely Buddhist, Baptists have a strong presence among some of the marginalized ethnic and language groups in the country, with the MBC having more than 1.1 million members in more than 4,500 churches.
(BWA photo above)