VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/29/22)—American Baptist Churches USA recently co-sponsored a booth at the International Religious Freedom Summit (IRFS), along with MMBB Financial Services, International Ministries (IM), and the Regional Executive Ministers Council. The goal of the IRFS was to bring together a broad coalition that passionately supports religious freedom around the globe to address the issue of international religious freedom that touches every culture, nation, religion, and political system. At present, almost 80 percent of the world’s inhabitants live in countries where there are high levels of governmental or societal restrictions on religion, and restrictions have been steadily increasing for several years. American Baptists attending the event advocated for Myanmar and helped to share about the current plight faced by the people of Myanmar.
The three-day event was held in Washington D.C., June 28 – June 30. The Summit connected resources and advocates interested in religious freedom and highlighted the personal testimonies of survivors of religious persecutions and restrictions on religious freedom. The American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) also helped to sponsor a table in the display area, working with the Chin Association of Maryland.
Rev. Dr. Robin Stoops who attended the Summit said, “During the summit we were able to convene a breakout session highlighting the stories of the Kachin, Karen and Chin in Myanmar. Rev. Stanley Cung described the anguish of learning his brother serving as a pastor in the Chin state was murdered by the military. It was an overwhelming experience to learn of the worldwide persecution of people because of their religious faith. As a Baptist standing for religious freedom is core to our history and future. I have been stirred up to advocate for those people, by bringing attention to their stories.”
ABCUSA will continue sharing the dilemma of the people of Myanmar during a workshop that will be held at the World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting in Germany, September 1, 2022. The goal of the workshop is to expose human rights abuses, attacks on Christians and Muslims/Rohyingas and advocate and build a network to support federal democracy in Myanmar and the National Unity Government.
On July 25, 2022, the planning team for the upcoming workshop at the WCC event which includes Rev. Leslie Turley, American Baptist International Ministries area director for Southeast Asia and Japan, Rev. Rothangliani Chhangte, senior associate for Grants, Partnerships & Strategy Alignment with ABHMS, Rev. Florence Li, ABHMS National Coordinator for Asian Ministries, Rev. Saw Ler Htoo, general secretary of Karen Baptist Churches USA, and Dr. C. Jeff Woods, ABCUSA general secretary, met with the Prime Minister of the National Unity Government, Mahn Win Khaing Than. On the call, the Prime Minister informed the team that four democracy activists had been executed by Myanmar’s military in what is believed to be the first use of capital punishment in decades. The military junta, who have taken over the country claimed that the activists had committed terrorist acts.
Saw Ler Htoo declared, “The execution of four democracy leaders in Myanmar impacted people in the country and former Myanmar citizens all over the world who advocate for democracy and freedom. People feel hopeless and have more fear. The military junta intends to destroy the democratic leaders who stand for peace and justice. Their brutal action threatens the civilians must be stopped.”
“We are keenly aware of the attempts of heinous acts of violence to squelch the voices of the persecuted in the U.S. and our hope is that news of these executions will empower world leaders to increase their support for the National Unity Government,” said Woods.
ABCUSA continues to advocate for humanitarian assistance and an end to the military coup through advocacy letters, meetings with governmental leaders, sessions with the United Nations, and workshops.
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.