Myanmar Protest, Violence Sparks Prayer Calls

Christian organizations are calling for prayers for Myanmar after last week's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protestors who stood against the country's repressive regime.

U.S.-based Christian Freedom International, in a statement Monday, called on "Christians everywhere to pray for the perilous situation."

Since 1996, CFI has provided humanitarian aid in Myanmar, also known as Burma, where for decades Karen and Karenni Christians have been victims of the government's brutal ethnic cleansing campaign.

The organization also established schools, orphanages and hospitals along the Burma-Thai border for thousands of refugees that have been displaced by the country's devastating civil war.

The United Methodist Church's Global Ministries has also called on the Christian community to pray for all the people of Myanmar who have suffered greatly and for the small minority of Methodists and other Christians in Myanmar to remain safe.

Last week, violent showdowns between the military and thousands of peaceful protestors in the streets of capital city Yangon and other cities drew the world's attention after human rights groups for years warned of the junta's brutality.

The military fired gunshots, hurled batons, barricaded monks in temples and arrested protestors during the series of confrontations with tens of thousands of disgruntled citizens.

Dissident groups say some 200 people were killed during the crackdowns, but the junta claims only ten died.

"As people of faith, we affirm that such uses of force have never quenched the spirit of people who wish to be free," wrote the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches (U.S.A), in a letter Monday sent to U.N. Secretary of General Ban Ki-moon.

Kirkpatrick urged the United Nations, the leaders of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), all the nations of the region, and especially the leaders of the Peoples Republic of China and India "to use their good offices to help bring an end to this unfolding tragedy."

Myanmar is one of the world's most repressive as well as one of the poorest countries in Asia.

The junta is accused of persecuting of ethnic minorities, ordering crosses and churches to be destroyed, permitting child labor and human trafficking. They are also criticized for squashing the freedom of speech, assembly and worship, as well as holding more than 1,000 political prisoners – including Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Furthermore, the military regime is accused of sanctioning sexual violence against women of ethnic minorities.

Nearly half of the reported cases documented against women of the Chin ethnic minority were gang rapes, and at least a third were committed by officers, according to U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The Chin population in Burma is about 90 percent Christian and is severely persecuted by Burma's traditionally pro-Buddhist military regime.

"We urge leaders of Christian denominations around the world, and individual Christians everywhere, to fulfill their biblical mandate for justice by speaking up and praying for the suffering people of Burma at this time," said Stuart Windsor, Christian Solidarity Worldwide's national director, in a statement.

"This is a momentous and critical time for Burma and it is vital that we seize this opportunity to support the movement for freedom."

Myanmar has one of the world's worst religious freedom records and is repeatedly designated by the State Department as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) – the worst religious freedom violator label. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent U.S. government agency, advised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in May to again include Burma on this year's CPC list.

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