Religion laws, Myanmar, and the future of the Church

(Image courtesy World Mission)

(Image courtesy World Mission)

Myanmar (MNN) — Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is at a crossroads.

Three months ago, Burma was considering a controversial “Religious Conversion Law.” It bore resemblance to the anti-conversion laws of India with language like “people found to be applying for conversion, with the intent of insulting or destroying a religion, can face imprisonment of up to two years.”

Additionally, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its 2014 report that “political reforms in Burma have not improved legal protections for religious freedom and have done little to curtail anti-Muslim violence, incitement and discrimination, particularly targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority.”

An August visit proved disappointing as observers noted “state-sponsored discrimination and state-condoned violence against Rohingya and Kaman ethnic Muslim minorities also continued, and ethnic minority Christians faced serious abuses during recent military incursions in Kachin state.”

Being Burmese is synonymous with being Buddhist, so those who deviate have been traditionally seen as traitors or threats. World Mission CEO and Executive Director Greg Kelley says, “Many times when you give your life to Christ, in the Buddhist context here, you are literally losing almost everything.”

(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

(Image courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

Despite the risk of being socially ostracized, Kelley says, “These people are responding to an authentic Christian.” In fact, he adds, “We just received a report from a village that 25 people had given their lives to Christ. Most of them are being baptized now. We’re so excited about the Word of God not returning void in Myanmar.”

The Treasure is World Mission’s digital audio Bible. The palm-sized unit has a built-in solar panel with rechargeable batteries. It brings the gospel to life for these unreached oral learners. “Most of them have never heard the Gospel [even] one time. So we distribute The Treasure. We set up listening groups in the Burmese language. About 100 people will hear the Gospel every time we send in The Treasure.”

What happens to those who’ve been rejected by their communities? They don’t remain alone, says Kelley. “In many instances, as these Christians mature, they’re able to reintroduce and get re-acclimated into their communities and gain favor with these same people who maybe ostracized them at one point in time.”

In the meantime, Kelley says, “It becomes really critical that there is a community of believers that you are being nurtured in and being discipled in.” World Mission is also responding to that need next month by offering leadership development and training. “We’ll be gathering 50 leaders from about six different key areas of northern Myanmar. They do the heavy lifting, so it’s our opportunity over a couple of days to just really pour into them and encourage them.”

The final point: it takes all of us together to take the Gospel where it has never gone before. “I think it’s important that we acknowledge that God has already positioned strategic people to advance the Gospel to these areas. As we can, lift them up and pray for them to represent the ends of the earth and resource them with things like The Treasure. That’s a great role on our end.” Click here to get started.