VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/25/12)—American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM) leaders sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on May 24, urging Clinton and the U.S. government to place an emphasis upon true human rights reforms, and the cessation of the use of rape as a weapon of war, before moving forward in economic agreements with the government of Burma. ABWM has a deep and historical engagement in issues regarding the oppression and exploitation of women worldwide.
“We commend the State Department for its attention to democratic reform in Burma and its stated commitment to human rights issues,” the letter says. They ask Secretary Clinton to be sure the U.S. government upholds its commitment to human rights and holds the Burmese government accountable for crimes against humanity in Myanmar.
“While we applaud steps that have been taken by the Burmese government towards democracy, we are alarmed by continued reports of rape and torture of Kachin and other ethnic minority women, and the lack of commitment on the part of the newly established Burmese national human rights commission to probe allegations against the army for incidents in conflict areas,” the letter stated. It goes on to explain, “It is clear that human rights violations by the Burmese military against Kachin civilians, especially rape as a weapon of war, continue unabated with little evidence of repercussion.”
In the letter, ABWM cites multiple instances of human rights violations:
- In October of 2011, 28-year-old Sumlut Roi Ja, mother of a 14-month-old daughter, was abducted by Burmese Army soldiers under 321st Light Infantry Battalion and has not been seen by her family since. The case was submitted to the Burmese Supreme Court in Nay Pyi Daw on January 26, 2012. The case was heard on February 23, 2012, and the Court declined to issue an order to investigate her whereabouts and dismissed the case. In a statement from the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand, KWAT coordinator Moon Nay Li declared that the message was clear: “The Burmese military can rape and kill ethnic women with impunity.” Click here to read more.
- The rape and torture of a 48-year-old Kachin woman who had taken shelter in a church in the village of Pang Wa was reported in a press release from KWAT dated May 18, 2012. On May 1, 2012, Burmese troops found the woman hiding alone in a church after most of the other villagers had fled their advance. Ten soldiers beat her, stabbed her, and gang-raped her over a period of three days in the church. This was witnessed by another villager who had been captured and beaten. Both victims were later found by Kachin villagers and taken to the hospital. Although the woman has been reunited with her family, her mental condition is fragile as she suffers from severe trauma.In February of 2012, the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand released a report, stating that while the regime had been denying that it was committing human rights violations, KWAT had documented “the rape of 32 women and girls in eight townships during the first three months of the offensive, thirteen of whom were killed.” Click here to read more.
The letter was signed by Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of ABWM, Barbara J. Anderson, president of ABWM and Rev. Sandra DeMott Hasenauer, associate executive director of ABWM. Click here to view the complete letter.
“Our Break the Chains initiative to ‘break the chains and stop the pain’ of oppression of women and girls worldwide focuses this year on violence against women. We cannot be silent on this issue; we call upon American Baptist women everywhere to use their voices on behalf of those whose voice is silenced,” said Holmstrom.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries is a Christ-centered ministry, committed to encouraging and empowering women and girls to serve God.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.