VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 8/20/21)—A delegation of sixteen people representing various grassroots organizations including U.S. Burma diaspora communities and church leaders met virtually with United Nations Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews on August 18 in regard to human rights, the Covid-19 pandemic and other things happening in Myanmar (Burma).
Since the military junta took control on February 1, 2021, people have experienced extreme human sufferings. The political turmoil has caused the country economic meltdown and social unrest. The outbreak of Covid-19 has further impacted the country, with over 363,000 cases confirmed and at least 13,000 lives lost. “We have had 170 Chin pastors die in the Chin State,” said Rev. Dr. Stephen Kio, Pastor of Chin Baptist Church in Indianapolis and a leader of the US Chin Coalition.
The Burma Refugee Commission (BRC), under the leadership of Rev. Dr. C. Jeff Woods, Interim General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) and Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary Emeritus of ABCUSA, have coordinated virtual meetings with U.S. Senators and House Representatives to advocate for humanitarian relief. Those meetings were at times joined by Commission members; diaspora community activists; Elijah M. Brown, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance; and Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. Woods had also convened a meeting with American Baptist Regional Executive Ministers to encourage the executive ministers to call on their State Senators, in addition to writing letters to President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the United Nations Security Council, and has provided sample letters for local advocacy.
The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced on August 10 that the U.S. will be providing more than $50 million in critical humanitarian relief to the people of Burma and $5 million in COVID relief to refugees and those in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. https://www.state.gov/united-states-announces-more-than-50-million-inhumanitarian-assistance-for-the-people-of-burma-and-5-million-in-covid-19- assistance-for-thailand/
Rev. Leslie Turley, Area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan, International Ministries, and a member of the BRC, works continually connecting mission partners here and abroad to lend support and to identify needs in order to ensure that assistance is available and donations can reach those to whom they are intended.
Rev. Florence Li, National Coordinator for Asian Ministries, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, connects church leaders and community groups regularly, joining their rallies and facilitating a monthly “Pray for Burma” online meeting.
Amidst the continuous advocacy and fund-raising efforts, much hard work has been done by the diaspora churches and community groups themselves. Due to the lack of health care accessibility and vaccinations, many of their overseas family members, relatives and church members have died of Covid-19. According to Reuters news source, over 13,000 people have died of Covid-19, but it is estimated that the unreported numbers of death reflect a much higher rate of death.
The meeting with UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews reiterated the need for on-going grassroots efforts advocating for human rights and humanitarian relief. Andrews applauded the resiliency of the Burma people and promised to do his best in working with the United Nations and the U.S. government, to assure that Covid-19 relief would reach the civilians and the border where there are Internally displaced people (IDP) camps.
If you would like to join the monthly “Pray for Burma” meeting which occurs on the first Monday of each month (but will meet September 13th because of the Labor Day Weekend). Please contact Florence.Li@abhms.org.
For any questions on donations to support people of Burma, please contact Leslie Turley, Leslie.Turley@internationalministries.org.
Donations for humanitarian relief can still be sent designated to One Great Hour of Sharing either through your American Baptist church; by visiting www.abc-usa.org and clicking “Give Online” at the top right of the page; or by check designated to “One Great Hour of Sharing” and mailed to ABCUSA, PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851. Please enter “OGHS Burma Relief” in the Comments section when giving online or giving by check.
One hundred percent of donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs. To ensure that your church receives credit for your gift, write the church name on your check or, if giving online, in the “comment” box.
One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering received by churches.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.