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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_custom_heading text=”By ICC’s Myanmar Correspondent” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1530296559276{margin-bottom: 22px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”96388″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]06/29/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Beautiful, lush, and deadly, Kachin State sits nestled between the glorious Himalayan Mountains in the northern region of Myanmar – a melting pot of fortune-seekers, drug lords, civilians, and IDPs (internally displaced persons). The Phar-Kant area is riddled with conflicts related to social issues, natural resource exploitation, civil war, and issues with the Chinese border. International Christian Concern (ICC) recently visited the Kachin region to survey the situation of IDPs, innocent civilians trapped in a warzone.

Kachin State’s landscape bears witness to how excessive exploitation of the earth can lead to civil unrest. Kachin State lies above a precious resource, a stone called jade that is considered priceless in the Chinese culture. The stone’s value acts as a siren call to neighboring villages, luring desperate fortune-seekers to the land with futile promises. Few find jade, but many become entrapped in a vicious cycle of malaria, drug addiction, land sliding, and civil unrest. This featured video by Al Jazeera further illustrates the problem.

Civil war led to the displacement of thousands of IDPs. They have been living in temporary shelters within warzones for up to seven years, without the option to relocate from the high-risk areas. People protest in the streets, demanding that the government and Tatmataw, the army in power, allow people affected by the ongoing civil war to move to safer ground in Myitkyinar.

While non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have provided for the IDPs’ immediate needs, they still face struggles and persecution stemming from financial and societal instability. Young people living in IDP camps often get married around the age of 17 or 18, even though they do not have a stable source of income. The space they have in the IDP shelters is cramped and close to neighboring families, so there is no margin for privacy. Children from IDP camps often face discrimination from students and teachers alike within the education system. Though more than half of all IDPs are school-aged, many of them struggle to advance their education.

Despite these challenging circumstances, the women in IDP camps have made the best of their circumstances, finding ways to sustain their households in the face of scarce job opportunities, cramped living conditions and meager resources. Some women have been in the IDP camps for seven years, yet they continue to find motivation to strengthen their families and learn new skills through various NGOs.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”“These inspiring women remain an enduring source of encouragement in the face of lacking job opportunities an unfavorable living conditions.”” font_container=”tag:h5|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1530296479003{margin-top: 50px !important;margin-bottom: 60px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1530618859535{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

When we asked residents of the IDP camps for prayer requests, the question was met with shy smiles and blank expressions. A camp administrator in Mai Hkon, explained, “Maybe they are facing difficulties in getting their basic needs met, and that is the reason they could not come up with any prayer requests.” The administrator explained that, though they pray at worship services, a prayer request is different. He said that they feel that “they have to tell something they hope for.” They are not able to conceive of a better life because they have been living in squalor for so long.

The 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference will soon be taking place in Myanmar. Many individuals want to end the civil war and restore peace. While encouraging, the negotiations do not ensure immediate stability because IDPs will likely not be receiving proper representation at the meeting. IDPs could be represented by the Kachin Independent Army (KIA), Kachin Independent Organization (KIO), or the Tamadaw – the army in power, yet none of these groups have a vested interest in the IDPs’ welfare. Perhaps the best solution would be to have an intermediary who is committed to advocating for suffering people. Unfortunately, as it currently stands, there does not seem to be space for this kind of representation at the Panlong Peace Conference.

The main city in Kachin State is called Myitkyinar, which means “near by the big river” in Burmese.  In Psalm 1:3, the writer mentions that he who is blessed is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” The city Myitkyinar doesn’t quite exemplify the blessing as that tree portrayed in the Bible. Residents of Myanmar are left with many questions: how will this conflict come to an end, or will it ever end? The region is clogged with uncertainty and complicated grey areas in the country’s peace process.

The Kachin land and the Kachin people do not deserve this situation. They have so much to offer the nation, but they urgently need prayer to lift up the dreams of their new generation. This year’s Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) theme stated that this country clearly needs “a call for fervent prayer in nation building. 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 22:40-46.” MCC intends for these prayers to represent the vision that is held for Christian citizens, that the nation would be built up and the people’s suffering would be acknowledged. Hope remains that suffering Christians will prevail in Myanmar. The Lord is with them and they need our prayers more than ever, in the same way that Jesus needed his disciples to pray before he endured the cross.

For interviews with Gina Goh, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]