Since the military coup in February last year, the people of Myanmar have endured widespread violence at the hands of the military junta. Armed conflict has displaced thousands of people, and according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the nation remains “trapped in a cycle of poverty and displacement, human rights violations and abuses … the lives and future of Myanmar’s people are hanging in the balance.”
Sawm is the General Secretary of MFES, the student movement in Myanmar. He reports that while people are returning to work, and over a year has passed since the coup that led to the “Spring Revolution”, life remains far from stable. “The military arrest young people who are in the vicinity of any attack from the armed wing of the shadow National Unity Government, the People’s Defense Force – even if they weren’t involved”, says Sawm. “In many towns people dare not go out in the afternoons, and their houses stay dark at night. Some, even middle-school aged children, can’t stay in their own village, because they will be accused of being involved in armed resistance. The military arrest whomever they suspect, without proof.”
There aren’t many options for young people; as Sawm puts it, they either “join the PDF, find poorly paid factory work in cities, or leave the country.” Ongoing and widespread violence and injustice – which has included the murder of one of Sawm’s neighbours – have also deeply impacted students. Many would-be students have joined armed resistance groups instead of universities. “Last week”, says Sawm, “one of our students went missing on the way to church. We still don’t know where he is exactly, but it seems that he was taken by the military. In the same week, three others were met by robbers on the bus and lost their cell phones and bags.”
But amidst the turmoil and suffering, God is moving, and student ministry continues.
“God has answered our prayers and given us a ministry centre, a comfortable and safe place to build friendships and share the gospel”, testifies Sawm. “We’ve started a new English Club, as well as our Bible Study and fellowship gathering.” MFES has a vision built on the initial success of the ministry centre: “We want to create a neutral space for all students, where we help them educationally and emotionally during this time of crisis and share the gospel. We really need prayers, advice, and help, so that the ministry would be meaningful, effective, and growing, even now.”
Despite everything, growth is exactly what’s happening. Sawm recently spent three days visiting students in a city on the opposite side of the country. “It was a great privilege”, he says, “to explain the importance of student ministry for spreading the gospel throughout Myanmar and seeing change in our society. Together we reimagined the possibilities for effective student ministry.’’ As they studied Colossians, Sawm’s group ‘’reconsidered the Lordship of Jesus in every aspect of our lives, and we prayed that this truth would shape us into being ‘salt and light’ in our chaotic world.”
Pray with us for Sawm and the students of MFES:
- Sawm asks, “please keep praying that God would heal our collapsed country soon.”
- Pray that God would grant MFES the wisdom and strength to serve him effectively.
- Praise God for the ministry centre he has provided and keep praying for the finances of the centre.
- Pray for the quick release of the MFES student who has been detained by the military, and that he would be able to return home safe.