Earlier this year I spent a week training pastors in Burma, or Myanmar, as it was known for the past few decades.
It was a time of anticipation and excitement for the country as the military dictatorship was finally giving way to democratic elections.
The Future Looks Brighter
No one knows the future and that is most certain in Burma. They will have a parliamentary democracy but the military still retains enough seats in their government to quash any decision they oppose. The country is still officially Buddhist so no one knows if the Christians will have an easier time than before. Finally, Ahng Sang Suu Kyi, the woman everyone wants to run the country is barred by law from the job (this is because her adult sons have a foreigner for a father).
Most likely “The Lady,” as she is known will hold the real political power behind the throne. She has had much international influence and has been influenced by secular leaders so she may (or may not) be a signal of better times ahead for believers in the country.
In spite of the uncertainty, the pastors I taught are very hopeful about their future. This is partly because of the politics and partly because people are beginning to come to Jesus in larger numbers.
Major Hindrances To The Gospel
With Christians comprising only about four percent of the population there is still lots of room for growth.
Along with the opportunity comes some serious opposition.
Just five months before I visited the (old) government passed two laws that can cause serious harm to the church. The first is an “anti-conversion law,” which makes it illegal for a Buddhist person to convert to another religion. Both Christians and Muslims suffer under this law, but several churches have been torn down in Chin Province which is a
traditional hotbed of Christianity. All it takes is for a disgruntled neighbor to report someone and they can be arrested. One man was arrested for ‘illegally’ cutting trees on his own property to build a cross on his church.
The other law which poses problems for Christians is one which makes it very difficult for a Buddhist person to marry outside of their religion. The new law requires the local marriage registrar to post a notice for 14 days prior to the marriage. During that time anyone can protest the marriage, holding it up or resulting in arrests if it goes forward. Again, arrests have been made and the law is vague enough that it can be interpreted to include a person who was married after conversion.
In spite of the difficulties, leaders say, “Nothing is legal but everything is possible.” Great attitude and great faith in a difficult place.
Again, I want to thank you for your prayers and financial support. I only travel to places where something is actually happening but places where things are difficult enough that they can’t cover costs. Without you I would never assist these people.