Updates from Churches in Southeast Asia
The Church in Southeast Asia continues to endure persecution. An attack in Myanmar has left believers shaken and grieving, while in Vietnam Christians are accused of spreading COVID.
On June 6, around 6 in the morning, military troops raided Daw Nga Khar locality, Dimoso Township, Kayah State. It was the continuation of a clash between the People’s Defense Force (PDF) of the area and the military. The artillery shelling near the crossroads hit and damaged the Lady of Peace Catholic Church. Schools, shops and houses were set on fire. Locals said that the militant group had fired on schools, shops, houses and churches to prevent the PDF from taking refuge in the buildings.
On the evening of 6 June, though the white flag was raised, the front of the church was seen being damaged by artillery shelling by the military junta.
As Myanmar is entangled in civil wars between military soldiers and public resistance groups in many places, believers are affected and displaced from their homes.
1. Pray for peace and restoration in Kayah State.
2. Pray for Christians to be able to persevere in their faith.
3. Pray for God's protection and provision for Christians who are in in the town and for displaced believers as well.
The past few weeks have been restless for many Vietnamese due to another wave of COVID-19. In the northern region, hundreds of positive cases are recorded every day while Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is on complete lockdown.
But Christians, especially those coming from the Revival Ekklesia Mission (REM) HCMC headquarter, are more distressed with this recent outbreak. On May 26, a couple who visited REM center tested positive for COVID-19. On June 1, officials had identified 211 other positive cases connected to REM which said to have spread to seven other provinces affecting thousands of other residents. This outbreak prompted authorities to lockdown HCMC, Vietnam’s largest city, and other areas to prevent the further spread of COVID.
Authorities had forbidden meetings of more than 20 people the last two weeks of May. REM, an independent house church organization with few branches in Vietnam, had observed by conducting their services mostly online. REM leader Rev. Vo Xuan Loan said that only seven people were present at the church when the couple visited. Despite this, on May 30, REM’s registration was “temporarily suspended” and was prosecuted for “spreading dangerous infectious disease to people".
According to Home Affairs deputy minister, REM will suffer much rigid penalties if serious violations are found.
This outbreak of COVID-19 cases stirred up hatred among the crowd against the members of REM including Rev. Loan, who is on oxygen support due to the virus. OD local partner said that Rev. Loan’s family have been receiving threats and curses, and church members are also treated badly at the isolation wards. False reports and hateful comments that malign REM and the general Christian population of Vietnam are also circulating in social media.
Rev. Loan expresses her apology, through an open letter, to all affected for being an unintentional epicenter of COVID-19. She is also grateful to the authorities for their swift efforts and care for the citizens. Many Christians, including evangelical pastors and Catholic priests, also expressed through separate letters a desire for the authorities to treat REM with compassion and care as they are also victims of the disease.
However, many Christians are also concerned that the REM outbreak will be used by the authorities as a reason to impose stricter COVID-19 restrictions on religious organizations and their leaders, with extra severity on house churches.
· For Christians to be united in prayer for this difficult time for the members of REM, and many other believers in the country who may have also received discrimination because of this outbreak.
· For healing and fast recovery for the COVID-19 victims in Vietnam. Pray also for financial, emotional, and spiritual provision for them and their families.
· Pray for the authorities and the people. Pray that the Lord will open their hearts and pacify them during this pandemic. Pray also that they will be more understanding and compassionate towards each other.
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