Maybe you saw that bizarre video of a middle school PE instructor in Myanmar doing her exercise routine as a pack of black SUVs and military vehicles fill the frame behind her. As she dances, they make hard, fast turns and pull up to a barricade. All of this happens unbeknownst to this teacher who regularly films her classes in front of the empty roads of Myanmar’s capitol.
But what exactly happened, and what’s happening today?
As this middle school teacher danced, the military was busy taking over the government. For the second time in 60 years, a coup overthrew the government.
The news reached me quickly in the U.S. as so many of my friends in Mae Sot, Thailand, have family in Myanmar. And across my neighborhood in Chicago, families braced themselves for the worst, fearing for their families’ lives in this beautiful and complicated country.
I can’t fault the international community for missing what’s going on in Myanmar. This world holds a never-ending list of crises. Even in our own homes, our own challenges and worries and struggles preoccupy our minds.
I get it.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I feel compassion fatigue. I feel exhausted by the list of disasters happening in our world. I don’t know how to carry it all. And we can’t carry it all on our own. The Father never created us to, but in our relative safety and stability and privilege, may we never turn a blind eye to the suffering of people in our world, our country, our own neighborhood.
So what’s happening in Myanmar? This is a complicated question that we only can answer with a history lesson. I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible, but brevity rarely gets to the heart of the issue.
A Brief History Lesson
The Myanmar government recognizes 135 ethnic groups. Try to wrap your mind around that number for a minute.
135 distinct ethnic groups.
Since Myanmar’s independence, these groups have fought for power, and the one with all the guns—the military most often takes control. Myanmar has experienced civil war, violence from the government, and genocide against minority people for 60 years. For a brief period, they tried to transition to democracy, open up themselves to the outside world, and grow their economy. But on February 1, 2021, just before parliament started its next session, the military dismantled years of hard work and staged a coup. Now the military has declared a state of emergency for the next year. Protests and counter protests have filled the streets of major cities across the country, but the military control everything. They have the police, the armed forces, the government, and they have the attention of the people—their fear, their thoughts, and some of their submission.
Increasingly, they are becoming more and more violent toward their people. Night and day, they attack innocent civilians through airstrikes and bullets and physical beatings. The military grab and beat people simply riding on their motorbikes and bicycles. Citizens in Yangon—the largest city in Myanmar—live under curfews and marshal law. The beast that appeared to be subdued has reared its ugly head.
Those are some facts. They’re things you could discover with the right Google searches. Let me share a few stories.
The People. The Stories.
Let me tell you of my friend in Chicago whose father lives in Yangon. He is afraid to leave his house because of the military’s presence and violence toward citizens. He doesn’t have enough money for food, so my friend, trying to provide for her own family in Chicago, sends money so that he can eat more than one meal of rice.
Let me tell you of my friend in Thailand who worries for her friends who protest in Myanmar. As they go out day after day, all she can do is pray for them, send money to them, and communicate with them through secret channels whenever the government keeps cell service connected. She genuinely worries for their lives and wishes she could do more for them. They won’t rest. They won’t give up. And she would never ask them to, because they are fighting for their futures.
Let me tell you of my friend in Chicago whose aunties are being forced to open their shop even though gunfire and violence fill the streets. Four single older ladies sit in their shop in Yangon day after day, even though no customers come. The government has forced all shop owners to do this, otherwise they will ransack the businesses. So these aunties are forced to save their livelihoods and pray that it does not cost them their lives.
These aren’t the worst stories. None of my friends have lost loved ones to the war that wages in this beautiful country. But the fear and worries weigh on them day after day—bringing them to their knees in desperation.
So what’s happening in Myanmar? History is repeating itself, and people are paying the price. As I sit in a coffee shop in Chicago, my brothers and sisters in Myanmar are dying at the hand of darkness and evil.
Whew. That shakes me, and I hope it shakes you a bit too.
So what now?
So, what now? How can you help Myanmar?
- Pray. I cannot stress this enough—what’s happening in Myanmar is evil. It is a work of darkness. We’re not fighting a battle of flesh and blood but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. So pray. Pray against the darkness and for a move of the Spirit. Intercede for the believers and for revival. Pray for the miraculous. And pray for the Lord’s goodness and justice to penetrate even the hardest of hearts.
- Support trusted organizations. These are organizations I love dearly that actively advocate for Myanmar’s people:
- Contact your senator or representative. Global Child Advocates created the graphic below. Political campaigns work and are a practical method to support those in Myanmar.