MYANMAR In wounded Myanmar, Easter revives Christian communities

In recent months, the violence of the civil conflict has spiraled out of control. The displaced, whose situation is now permanent, have lost everything: jobs, material goods and friendships. And precisely among the rubble of despair, a small Christian community has resurfaced.

Loikaw () – Last night, on the Via Crucis in the ColosseumThey reminded the displaced people of Myanmar, the former Burma, one of the places most disfigured by the “world war in parts” that is wreaking havoc in the world. The displaced Burmese will celebrate Easter amid the rubble of civil conflict, far from home, in many cases without family or friends, and often short of food and medicine. However, in the midst of despair, after having lost everything – not only material goods, but also his origins and history – he sees the seed of life sprout. New communities have sprung up among the Christian refugees in Taunggyi, the capital of the eastern Shan state – whose situation has ceased to be an emergency to become a permanent one. And for the first time this year, more than two years after the coup that sparked the war, they will celebrate Easter together, as chaos and violence spread around them.

The army, following the coup in February 2021, overthrew the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). Subsequently, it concentrated the bombardments in the forests, to force the displaced and fugitives to move to the city. For the regime’s troops, responding to guerrilla actions is easier in urban areas than in the jungle. For the same reasons, the military is also closing down formal refugee camps in various parts of the country. According to the latest UN report Regarding the humanitarian situation, at the end of last month there were more than 1.8 million displaced persons, mainly concentrated in the northwestern areas of the country where fighting has intensified in recent months.

Thantlang, a town in Chin state near the Indian border, was razed to the ground and today resembles a ghost town. The Chin National Front, one of the local ethnic militias fighting the army, says 140 airstrikes have been launched on the city and surrounding villages since the coup. The situation is no better on the opposite border, the Thai one: yesterday, more than 1,000 people crossed the border to escape fighting between the army and the Karen National Liberation Army, another ethnic militia. In Thailand’s Mae Sot district, the number of refugees (mainly women, children and the elderly) climbed to 8,000 in a single day.

Not only are there open fronts in various parts of Myanmar: sources of They explain that divisions are emerging within the warring factions, generating an unprecedented escalation of violence. In mid-March, news had spread of a massacre of civilians and Buddhist monks inside a monastery in the village of Nan Naint, which was perpetrated by a pro-regime militia of the Pa-O ethnic group, the Pa-O National Army, -in Burmese, they are nicknamed the “dogs of Min Aung Hlaing”, the general in command of the army.

“It was a terrible event: for the first time, the combatants killed civilians of their own ethnic group,” our sources say. “And the bloodbath took place the night before an important local ceremony where children dress up as little monks.” This carnage is emblematic of the division that is also taking place in the ranks of the army. In some parts of the Sagaing region, total anarchy reigns: the infamous “Ogre column”, for example, made up of infantry battalions, has been carrying out -independently- a series of raids against resistance strongholds in the region since February. the central region of Sagaing, massacring civilians and raping women before killing them.

The Popular Defense Forces (FDP), the militias that sprang up spontaneously after the coup and made up of fighters from the majority Bamar ethnic group, are also disbanding, seized with disappointment and anger towards the Government of National Unity in exile, made up of former deputies of the NLD. “We have left everything, our houses, our jobs, our affections, for what?” ask the displaced people who were part of the Civil Disobedience Movement. They are the members of the association who took to the streets to protest peacefully immediately after the coup. These are people who, by joining the demonstrations, endangered themselves, but also their loved ones: being on wanted lists, they are unable to work or send their children to school.

Thus, many minors end up becoming child soldiers: the militias pick them up on the streets or the army forces them to fight, they join the war and then end up among the displaced. “They are people without roots. Their material needs are urgent, but they are also easily resolved, bringing them medicines and food,” the sources continue. . ‘Rebuilding the social fabric, on the other hand, is difficult because it takes more time. Everyone has lost friendships and relationships and there is great mistrust due to the possible presence of informers.’ Starting over is difficult for young people, but also for those over 40 or 50 years old. “In fact, it might be harder for them, because they find they have to start over, rebuild everything in the middle of their lives.”

However, in these groups of displaced, uprooted and traumatized people, Easter is also celebrated, as some communities have spontaneously joined them. “Nothing in particular has been done. The closeness between Christians was enough to see human relations flourish again.”

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Written by Editor TLN

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