In 1984, the first wave of Myanmarese refugees fleeing from conflict began flooding across the border into Thailand, reports MNN.
25 years later, the crisis continues. Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders says, "There are currently over 150,000 refugees that have come into Thailand from Burma. There are still more flooding across the border."
The persecution and violence seems to have government support. Many of the refugees are of the minority Karen people, who are among the most discriminated against in Burma. "One of the generals said, "By the year 2010, there will be no Karen people left. We’re going to wipe them off the face of the earth."
Is the campaign ethnic or faith-based? Klein says it’s a bit both. Many of the Karen are Christians. However, according to Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Buddhism is strongly entrenched in the Myanmarese majority; only about five percent of Christians in Burma are converts from Buddhism.
VOMC has more grim news. These Christians have been raped, tortured and murdered. In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the country in early May 2008, Burmese authorities reportedly denied relief aid to several Christians.
The harassment is growing more blatant. In his last visit, Klein said he visited with a group of orphaned refugees. Myanmar junta soldiers had threatened to kill all of the children in the home, so the group fled in the middle of the night. All 86 children took refuge 150 yards away in Thailand.
Vision Beyond Borders works with several church partners and at least six orphanage programs in Myanmar. Many of these sprang to life as the result of the deadly Cyclone Nargis last year. Klein says, "Because of the compassion of the Christians reaching out to these refugees coming in, even the Buddhists now are coming to faith in Jesus Christ, so the Gospel is increasing."
Persecution will follow. "It seems like they’re trying to stamp out the church," explains Klein, adding, "They know that the number of Christians is growing. But it seems like whenever there’s real persecution, the church seems to grow."
Report from the Christian Telegraph
An environmental disaster is unfolding on the Queensland coast, with the oil spill from the Hong Kong-flagged ship Pacific Adventurer. The Pacific Adventurer was badly damaged during the Cyclone Hamish weather event last week.
The Pacific Adventurer somehow managed to get caught up in the cyclone despite very early warnings concerning the cyclone. Some 31 containers containing ammonium nitrate were washed into the sea during the cyclone and as this occurred the ship itself was badly damaged, leaking some 230 tonnes of oil into the ocean. The initial report from the ship was that some 30 tonnes of oil had been lost.
The environmental disaster is huge, with the oil now affecting over 60km of coastline, including the eastern coast of Moreton Island. Sea life is being severely impacted by the disaster.
The cleanup is being done at a rate of about 1 to 2 km a day, which means it will take quite some time to complete.
Also of concern are the 31 containers of ammonium nitrate that are still missing and which could further contaminate the region. Navy mine hunters are being called in to search for the containers which remain a shipping hazard.
Cyclone Hamish is continuing to track parallel down the Queensland coast and thus far there have been no reports of injuries or major damage. Damaging winds can now be expected between Mackay and Bundaberg with the storm currently located to the north-east of Mackay.
The cyclone has been downgraded from a category 5 cyclone to a category 4 cyclone. The storm is massive and will still cause major damage should it cross the coast on Tuesday as forecast. The cyclone is generating winds of up to 260 km per hour.
Lady Elliot, Heron and Fraser Islands are all being evacuated as the cyclone heads in their direction. It is thought that the Hervey Bay area is the likely area the cyclone will fully impact on, with its remnant reaching possibly Brisbane.
Cyclone Hamish has further intensified to a category 4 system as it drifts further south off the Queensland coast. The cyclone is expected to cross the coast sometime in the next 48 hours and may yet become a category 5 system with winds reaching close to 300 km an hour.
As the storm approaches the coast it is expected to bring a massive storm surge of up to 2 metres or even more, as the storm is set to strike during unusually high tides, which would bring flooding to low lying coastal areas. The heavy rain will bring further flooding to the already drenched and flooded Queensland inland.
Premier Anna Bligh has signed a ‘Declaration of a Disaster Situation’ which allows authorities to evacuate threatened areas. The declaration covers the area from Lucinda in the far north to Hervey Bay in the south.
The cyclone is now centred 250 km to the north-east of Townsville and is moving to the south-east, roughly parallel to the Queensland coast. The Whitsundays are bracing for the storm’s impact as early as tomorrow morning, with tourists and residents evacuated.
The storm system is feared to bring damage comparable to that of Cyclone Larry which devastated north Queensland several years ago.
As Queensland begins to dry out after flooding affected 60% of the state, the flooding crisis is set to get worse as Cyclone Hamish closes on the Queensland coast near Townsville. The cyclone intensified overnight to a category 3 system and is expected to reach category 4 before it crosses the coast somewhere in the vicinity of Townsville.
Heavy rains and winds are already buffeting the coast, with some areas having already received in excess of 160 mm of rain. The cyclone is generating 220 km per hour winds and is located about 220 km of the Queensland coast to the east of Cairns.
The cyclone is expected to cross the coast in about 36-48 hours time.
At least 100 churches have been forced to stop holding services in Myanmar (Burma) after military officials made some 50 pastors sign documents promising to do so. They were told that if they did not comply, they would be jailed, reports MNN.
According to Gospel for Asia, Myanmar has been held under an oppressive military regime since 1962. Many believe that the recent violation of religious freedom was an attempt by the military regime to put a stop to Christianity altogether in the country.
Myanmar is 89 percent Buddhist, and the regime does not look lightly on conversions. Some Christians speculate that the military has been keeping a keen eye on them since they began relief work after the May 2008 cyclone, nervous that Christianity would spread as a result.
Most frightening about the recent moves to eliminate church services is the potential threat to personal worship. Most churches that have had to cease meeting are home churches, making Christians anxious that they may no longer be able to worship in their homes.
Gospel for Asia reported that all of the affected churches have been in the Yangon (Rangoon) area, and none of its churches have been directly affected by the deliberate infringements.
GFA missionaries, however, are certainly not left without concern. They ask for prayer that the Lord would change the hearts of political leaders in Myanmar for justice in regard to religious freedom. They also ask for prayers for wisdom and steadfastness for believers and missionaries in the region. Pray that the Lord would do a mighty work in Myanmar and that the church would continue to grow despite obstacles.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
With bushfires still raging in Victoria, New South Wales has now become a state burdened with a natural disaster. Queensland has been flood-stricken for weeks and now Darwin in the Northern Territory is also expecting flooding.
Some 62% of Queensland is now affected by flooding following weeks of torrential rain, caused by an active monsoonal trough and a cyclone. Some areas are expected to be flooded for weeks.
In New South Wales the north-western town of Bourke has received 2/3 of its annual rainfall in the space of 15 hours on the weekend and has now been declared a natural disaster area, with major flooding in and around the town.
Coastal New South Wales has been inundated since the weekend, with some towns having received their highest amount of rainfall in a five day period for over 35 years. Coffs Harbour has received well over 600 mm in the same period.
Bellingen and Thora are now surrounded by flood waters and a number of rivers up and down the New South Wales coast between Tweed Heads and the Hunter are now in flood or on flood watch, including the Tweed River, the Richmond River, the Wilsons River, the Bellinger River, the Macleay River, the Hastings River, the Manning River, the Orara River, the Nambucca River, the Williams River, the Paterson River, the Hunter River and the Myall River.
Towns affected by flooding include such centres as Bellingen, Wauchope, Port Macquarie and Bulahdelah.
To add to the growing flood threat, another trough and east coast low is developing off the New South Wales Coast and this is also expected to follow the previous system, bringing with it more heavy rain. Heavy rain from this new system is already falling on the north coast.
As these systems move further south toward bushfire ravaged Victoria, they are weakening and the potential for rain is lessening. So far Victoria has received very little rain and bushfires continue to burn.
Further off the Queensland coast there is a tropical depression that is making its way towards the Queensland coast. This could yet develop into a tropical cyclone and bring even more severe weather to Queensland.
In the Northern Territory several towns have been evacuated due to the heavy rain and flooding. Darwin also has a current flood threat warning in place.
Flood waters are now beginning to spill over the South Australian border, making their way towards Lake Eyre.