Sights and Insights
Devotion for Feb. 16, 2021
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. – Romans 14:17-18 (NRSV)
While it has not quite made the front page of the newspapers, I have been watching the news coming from Myanmar over the past week anxiously. If you have not been following, there was a military coup in the country. The military had ruled the country for decades, but in the past few years had shared some powers with a democratically elected government. The military seems to have retaken full power. There have been periods where much of the country’s internet was blacked out, limiting the information accessible about what is going on. Public gatherings have been prohibited, but large pro-democracy demonstrations have been held across the country.
The majority religion in Myanmar is Buddhism, but many of the rural areas have strong Christian communities. Christian groups like the Myanmar Institute of Theology and the Myanmar Baptist Convention have issued statements condemning the “unjust, forceful, oppressive, authoritarian activities of the military regime” and supporting “the peoples of Myanmar who have freely expressed their will and sincere desires for the prevalence of justice and peace which is the way of Jesus Christ.” As such, they support non-violent acts of civil disobedience in the pursuit of peace and justice.
I have had several students from among the leadership of various denominations in Myanmar, and through them have learned quite a bit about the struggles in the country, and particularly the struggles of Christian communities who are often based in areas rife with conflict. I have also worked with the Federation of the Lutheran Churches in Myanmar, and have had the opportunity to preach at three different congregations in Yangon (formerly spelled Rangoon), the largest city in the country. I visited the country in November 2016 and March 2019, and it was amazing to see the growth in prosperity during that time as well as increased freedom for the churches to operate, during the time when the military government had ceded significant aspects of control. I have now been seeing video clips posted by church leaders of marches happening in the streets just outside of churches where two years ago I was the guest preacher. My heart goes out to those communities. Let us take a moment to pray for peace and pray for justice for the people of Myanmar, and for its churches as well.