ABHMS stands with Burma Diaspora population in the United States

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) stands in solidarity with those who are protesting the military coup in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and those who are leaders and members of Burma Diaspora churches in the United States.

On April 10, ABHMS’ Rev. Florence Li, national coordinator, ABHMS Asian Ministries, and the Rev. Rothangliani Chhangte, senior associate, ABHMS Grants, Partnerships and Strategy Alignment, joined thousands people of Arakan, Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Lisu, Mon and Shan ethnicities in the “Multi-Ethnic Protest in D.C.” against the military coup in Myanmar.

Since the military took control of Burma on Feb.1, elected civilian leaders—such as Daw Aung Sun Sui Kyi and President Win Myint—have been arrested. The military junta has also brutally killed hundreds of people, including children and youth. Thousands of people have been arrested and tortured, and thousands have been fleeing to neighboring countries.

The protesters began the rally in front of the Embassy of the Republic of China, where Chhangte offered an opening prayer and a greeting on behalf of ABHMS and Li spoke on behalf of the Burma Refugee Commission. Protesters then marched peacefully to the Myanmar Embassy and the Military Attache’ Office, before making a brief stop near the White House and ending at the Washington Monument. The rally closed with a prayer by Li.

On April 16, leaders of Burma Diaspora churches in the United States met virtually with ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray and other members of the ABHMS staff. The Diaspora leaders expressed concern for the people of Burma, while admitting that they, themselves, are experiencing trauma from the brutal acts that are taking place there.

“I have been in the U.S. for many years, and what I notice is that, even though many of them who came from Burma became citizens, they still say, ‘Burma is our country,’” said the Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio of Indiana Chin Baptist Church, Indianapolis. “It tells me a number of things: It means their mind is still there. When something happens in Burma, it affects them a lot.”

Kio noted that the acts in Burma are adding to the anxiety of Burma Diaspora people who were already experiencing anxiety because of COVID.

“When ABHMS says, ‘We stand by you,’ that means a lot to us,” Kio added. “What you say and what you do may sound simple, but it’s quite impressive to us.”

Tansy Kadoe, a licensed associate marriage and family therapist and member of Arizona Karen Baptist Church, Phoenix, said that everyone in attendance at the meeting was likely suffering complex, collective trauma.

“The nightmare is very much alive, and there’s no end in sight,” Kadoe said. “We ask questions like ‘Why is God silent?’ ‘How much more?’ ‘When will this end?’ We feel guilty asking these questions, which adds another layer of stress. Jesus commands us to love God and our neighbors, but it feels like the God who we are to love is silent. At times like this, we struggle. How many lives need to be lost before someone steps in? Along with teaching and preaching, the church needs to do a lot more listening—let people lament and share their pain.”

Haggray stressed to those assembled that he and other ABHMS personnel understand suffering and share the burden of the Burma Diaspora people.

“I’m sitting here,” said Haggray, “as a brother in Christ who is grieving with you.”

In addition, Haggray encouraged the leaders with words from scripture.

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10, NIV), he said. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God… . We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed…struck down, but not destroyed. [I Cor 4:7-9, NIV]. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph. 6:10, NIV).