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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

5 December 2018: Jon Piper, Hope Church

Christmas offers hope for those who have none

I returned three days ago from a trip to Myanmar, the country formally known as Burma.

Myanmar is mostly in our news these days because of the human rights abuses against the Rohingya people. Even since my return, I’ve seen numerous articles expressing their disappointment in Aung San Suu Kyi, who was seen as the bright hope for the country but who has not spoken out in the Rohingya crisis.
In reality, the country is home to some of the longest running civil wars in the world, dating from 1948, when Burma left the British Empire and 1962, when a military coup took place. Myanmar is home to several minority groups with their own national identities and languages, but the government discriminate against minority ethnicities, minority languages and people with non-Buddhist religious beliefs.

I had the privilege of meeting several Christians during my week there. Some were pushing for political change, some for social change. Others lived as ‘internally displaced people’ (there are 130,000 in Myanmar), housed in camps with no power to improve their situation.

In one very poor area, in sight of the solid golden pagodas of Yangon (the biggest city in the country), but where a tarpaulin roof is a blessing, I visited a church that has been started this year. The church consists of a hut smaller than an English classroom. They have a problem because 70 people have become Christians since the church started and they can’t all fit in anymore!
It strikes me that, in a country where there is so little hope, the message that there is a God who cares finds ears ready to hear. At Christmas, Christians will celebrate the coming of this God who invites us to know Him as ‘God with us’ because all of us, and especially the people of Myanmar, desperately need this hope.

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