Myanmar: Presbyterian leaders write to Foreign Sec

11.2.2021 | Mission News, Global Mission, Moderator, Church in Society, Public Affairs

Following this month’s military coup in Myanmar, Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, has joined with his Scottish counterpart in urging the UK government to ‘do all that it can to ensure the restoration of democracy which fully respects the November election.’

Dr Bruce made the call with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Dr W Martin Fair, in a joint letter to the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP. Both churches have worked closely with the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) for many years and were keen to support their south-east Asian brothers and sisters in Christ, while drawing attention to PCM’s statement on the coup d’├ętat, which Rev Ramthanga, the Myanmar church’s General Secretary, issued in advance of  its General Assembly this week.

In their letter, the two church leaders said, ‘Our shock at the news of the military coup on 1 February was all the sharper because of our concern for our friends in PCM and the implications of the takeover by General Min Aung Hlaing.

‘Myanmar suffered 49 years of brutal military rule that ended as recently as 2011. In the past decade people have enjoyed increasing freedoms, some political progress and increased, if imperfect, economic growth. The fate of the Rohingya people shows that not all in Myanmar are treated equally.

‘We fully endorse a statement released by the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar in condemning oppression and calling for the release from house arrest of the State Counsellor, [Aung San Suu Kyi] President [Win Myint] and other elected leaders without exception.’

Rev Uel Marrs, Secretary to PCI’s Council for Global Mission, explained that for many years it had been challenging for PCI to develop a strong relationship with the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar on the ground, which is now recognised as one of PCI’s Global Mission Partners. “Due to the political situation in Myanmar from the early 1960s, we were only able to maintain the relationship with PCM at a distance,” Mr Marrs said.

Initial contact, with PCM began in the early 1980s and with the political and economic reforms that led to the ending of more than five decades of military dictatorship in 2011, Church’s General Secretary at that time, Rev Ling Zaw, was able to attend PCI’s General Assembly in Belfast in 2016.

“As a church, we have been able to work together with PCM in a range of ways, with a focus on scholarships for students in a variety of disciplines. In 2019 PCI’s Mission Support Officer for Partnerships, spent 10 days in Myanmar, developing the relationship with PCM leadership and visiting projects,” Mr Marrs continued.

“With more than 30,000 members, the Church is a small denomination in a majority Buddhist country of over 50 million people. Given what has happened, I very much welcome this initiative by our Church and the Church of Scotland.”

In their joint letter, the two Moderators also said, ‘We join with PCM in urging the authorities not to cause any harm anyone in the Civil Disobedience Movement who are pursuing non-violent means of protest and pray, as our PCM brothers and sisters in Christ say in their statement, ‘that love, peace, tranquillity, human rights and dignity may rule [their] government; that there would be no oppression; and that federal democracy would be implemented successfully.’

Dr Bruce and Dr Fair concluded their letter to Mr Raab by urging the Foreign Secretary to ‘take a leading role in building an international diplomatic response, which supports the people of Myanmar and the government they have elected.’

Images: The General Assembly Building of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar in the city of Tahan, Kalaymyo District, Myanmar (2) Presbyterian Church of Myanmar's emblem.

You can read the full text of the letter here, which includes the statement issued by the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar.

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