Pray with Myanmar, March 17, 2024

Pray with Myanmar, March 17, 2024

Lectionary Selection: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Prayers for Myanmar 

Gracious God, the bestower of all good things, we lift up our spirits and cry out to you for thy peace to rain upon Myanmar so that justice and harmony will envelop it steadfastly. We yearn and pray that you hold Myanmar in the embrace of thy grace. Even if the troubles of Myanmar would appear as minor and insignificant in comparison to the bigger conflicts across the world, we fervently pray to you, O Lord, that you make the world community see the people of Myanmar and not overlook their plight and sufferings. Strengthen the Christian community in Myanmar and all across the world so that all of us may be the fitting instruments in thy hands in ushering peace and justice in the war-torn country of Myanmar and other places of strife and violence. Just as in your word we have received today through prophet Jeremiah, write your law in our hearts so that we might know you intimately. May we be thy witnesses to the ends of this world by bearing fruits worthy of our repentance, in and through loving our neighbors as ourselves. We once again commit the people of Myanmar into thy hands and pray to you, our Lord, to bestow thy mercy and peace without them having to wait much longer. In Jesus’ name, we pray – AMEN

Mission Moment from Myanmar

Church members use sandbags to protect their church buildings from artillery fire in the current strife in Myanmar.

The Association for Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM)

The suffering in Myanmar has reached a critical point, prompting civilians to seek refuge in churches as safe havens. Regrettably, reports have surfaced about distressing incidents within sacred compounds. Some churches have become war zones, and religious institutions have been forcibly evacuated. Myanmar has been under military rule since the bloody coup on February 21, 2021. Since then, the resistance movements across the country and the military have been locked in a protracted conflict that draws in most of the population either by choice or by orders from both sides of this conflict. The recent conscription law mandating young people to enroll in the military makes this conflict all the more pervasive.

Church members use sandbags to protect their church buildings from artillery fire in the current strife in Myanmar.

Among the many conflicts in the world right now, the people in Myanmar feel left alone amid their suffering. Solidarity from the world would be a beacon of hope and light in the darkness that the people of Myanmar long for. Many seminaries ended their academic year before Christmas 2023 due to the continuous bombings and air strikes. Some seminaries have moved to new locations for their safety and survival. Many people are dying, and many, including pastors and believers, are under constant air strikes and rockets that come from both sides of this revolution.

We, the Association for Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM), have been forced to change our program dates due to safety concerns. But we praise God that many programs have been organized through webinars. Myanmar has been witnessing an increasing number of crimes, suicides, kidnappings, assassinations, and mental health and trauma challenges. Therefore, we, the ATEM, are trying to address the needs of our institutions and the churches by supporting and curing the wounds made prominent in the post-pandemic and post-coup times.

“Higher Theological Education in Responding Current Issues” gathering

This year, we held a very important workshop for standardizing academic criteria for our seminaries and institutions. At this “Higher Theological Education in Responding Current Issues” gathering, 38 presidents and deans from 36 seminaries and institutions participated regardless of the risks and dangers to their lives. The risk has been high because holding training and worshiping in the church is illegal in present-day Myanmar, as the Junta ordered and made a law that no more than five persons could assemble without permission. This prohibition order is still enforced and the military government is watching Christians and our institutions for violations.

The second major event we organized was a webinar on Practical Theology, which Prof. Dr. Edward Foley led. This webinar was attended by teachers of Practical Theology from 36 ATEM member schools. The program was very fruitful, and the participants received resources and encouragement to serve amidst critical conditions.

We organized an online theological education training program in partnership with the Oxford Center of Religion and Public Life (OCRPL) in the UK in 2023. During that time, many places in Myanmar were very much like war zones. However, many of our participants took risks to join the webinar, as many of them would have to travel to cities to access the internet, and some of these travels took more than a day. These webinars provide our lecturers with advanced tools for their theological education courses conducted online. In the ongoing armed conflict, a hybrid learning system for theological seminaries is preferred and promoted in Myanmar.

Due to the unstable and grave political situation, we have postponed a webinar on Contextual theology entitled “Community of Missionary Disciples: The Continuing Creation of the Church,” which would have been led by Prof. Stephen B. Bevansin in January 2024.

(We are in the planning process of an in-person program aimed at imparting basic librarianship training. This training is an urgent need, and many seminaries have requested it as we have not been able to have it since 2019. Therefore, for the sake of the new staff at theological libraries, we are organizing this program for March 2024.

We plan to have programs on crisis counseling, pastoral care, and counseling for the new academic year. Many young people have joined the revolutionary armies and underground movements, and many of them have experienced war and have conflict-inflicted trauma and mental health challenges. We are having this training program since the church would often be the only place that could address and help alleviate the mental health challenges of the youth in this country. Theological institutions must prepare to respond to these challenges and equip ministers for the challenge ahead from this year onwards.

We have also planned to translate two books from English to Myanmar language. One of them is the Myanmar Churches’ History, written by Rev. Dr. Lal Tin Hre, the former Executive Secretary of ATEM, and the other book is in biblical studies. Because most ministers do not have formal theological education and cannot read books written in English, many of our member seminaries request ding theological and biblical books written in Myanmar languages.

Therefore, we have much to do in 2024 and beyond, including addressing the urgent needs of the people. We are certain that we cannot endeavor on our own, but we are praying and certain that God will bless us through our international partner churches and organizations. So, please remember to uphold in your prayers ATEM, its member theological schools, and the Christian community here in Myanmar so that we may be part of the efforts to secure a better future for people in Myanmar, a future filled with peace and justice.

Mission Moment written by Dr. Zaw Latt Aung, Executive Secretary of the
Association for Theological Education (ATEM) in Myanmar.

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