A Christian persecution aid group has released a report describing the state violence underlying the recent mass exodus of the Myanmar ethnic Karen people.
Since it mounted a renewed offensive against Karen rebels on June 6, the Myanmar military has attacked the mountain villages, shooting the inhabitants as they run for their lives or capturing them and giving them extremely hard labor, literally working them to death as slaves and sometimes even using them as human land mine sweepers, the Barnabas Fund reported.
The aggressors then set fire to Karen villages or plant landmines around the homes and the bodies to kill anyone who tries to return. Many of those who flee to the surrounding jungle die there from snake bites, disease or starvation, the report stated.
There have been numerous reports of families being driven out of their homes and children losing their parents and wandering alone in the jungle. In one case, 17 families were found hiding together in a bamboo thicket in a small ravine.
Moreover, Christian orphanages that were set up to provide a safe haven for destitute children badly affected by the Cyclone Nargis tragedy and to give them stability, security, daily nourishment and the opportunity for an education have been a target. Soldiers recently stormed an orphanage where 90 children lived, destroying or taking everything they could lay their hands on, including blankets, mattresses, clothes, kitchen utensils and school supplies.
Fortunately, those who ran the orphanage managed to get the children out of the building before the arrival of the soldiers.
Mainly Christian, the Karen people have faced extensive ethnic and religious discrimination from the military regime, according to Barnabas Fund.
The Christian NGO is supporting the provision of food and shelter for Karen orphans, together with the running costs of a number of Christian orphanages set up in response to poverty and cyclone damage. It is also supporting partners who are working in the jungle to care for the Karen orphans and providing funding for pans, water containers, medicines, notebooks, pencils, blankets, mosquito nets, towels, mats, pillows and warmer clothes.
At the end of its report, Barnabas Fund International Director Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo made an appeal to the public for help. “The Karen people have suffered for decades at the hands of the Burmese military junta, who persecute them for their ethnicity and for their Christian faith. Please help us to take this opportunity to help Karen children in desperate situations at this time.”
More than 100,000 residents of Myanmar, most of them Karen, have fled to Thailand, according to the United Nations.