Dr Saw Wado’s father was a freedom fighter for the Karen National Liberation Army. Since 1949, a year after British rule ended in Myanmar (Burma), the ethnic minority group has battled the
might of the national military in the world’s longest-running insurgency. More than 100,000 are still displaced and have fled into camps on both sides of the Thai-Myanmar border. Of a total
Burmese population of 50 millions, around 9% are Christian.
Most of them are Karens. The war against the approximately 7 million Karen is fuelled not only by their ethnic difference from the rest of the Burmese, but there is also a particular campaign
against Christians by the majority Buddhist government forces, and over 3,000 Christian villages have been burned out in the last 10 years. The expulsion of foreign Christian workers in 1966 left a young church to cope on its own with little mature leadership or infrastructure. Adversity, persecution and isolation have helped shape a resilient, enduring faith. Like so many others before them, Wado and his siblings were punished for their father’s resistance.”Our house was rather small,” he says simply.
“So when they dropped three bombs on it, it collapsed.” Incredibly the family survived, but he was forced to flee across the border to Thailand. That was in 1988, when he was 13 years old. Mae La camp, just a few miles from the Thai-Myanmar border in northeastern Thailand, where the family sought refuge, has swelled from a population of just over 1,000 to nearly 40,000.
Food, education and healthcare is provided in the camps with funding from donor governments and NGOs. Thanks to Christian Aid, its partner organisation The Border Consortium (TBC) and other organisations, the education and healthcare provided inside the camps generally better than it is in surrounding rural Thailand.
But the camp is effectively a prison. The refugees are not allowed to leave the camp without permission from the Thai authorities and that is only given in exceptional circumstances. They cannot work, cannot earn money and cannot apply for citizenship.
Wado is one of the few success stories. He went to high school in the camp and then to a Bible college in the camp. He later became the first resident of Mae La to achieve a PhD. Fittingly his thesis was on the “theology of hope”.
Source: Operation World; Joshua Project; Christian Today
Bible Study: Psalm 3:2-6
MARCH: Praise God for men like Wado, who have renounced armed insurgence for a Christ-like approach. Pray that 2017 may be a year in which peace prevails.