Today for National Refugee Week (Sunday, 19 June to Saturday, 25 June), the BUV Support Hub welcomed Sung Sung from Brunswick Baptist Church, a refugee from the Chin State in Myanmar who shared with the staff her touching journey and emotional plea for her people who are still suffering back in war-torn Myanmar.
Sung Sung comes from a small village called Lungler in the Chin State of Myanmar. Fleeing her village, which had been burnt down, rebuilt and burnt down again (around 32 times and counting now), Sung Sung has found refuge and a new life here in Melbourne, Australia along with her cousin (she sponsored her brother).
However, despite the comfort, peace and the freedom that she is grateful for everyday that she is here, her heart continues to mourn for the lives of her family and her people back home.
Sung Sung grew up in a small village that was under constant threat from the oppressive Burmese military coup. Every waking moment for her and her family required constant vigilance – safety was never guaranteed.
“Sometimes we would be eating together like having breakfast and suddenly you just hear gun sounds coming from outside,” she says. “[The soldiers] came to our village to kill our animals, steal our belongings and to grab any [able-bodied men] to carry their stuff for them.”
Girls and young women’s safety were particularly threatened and Sung Sung vividly remembers her mother telling her to disguise herself by wearing something to hide her face or look as dishevelled as possible so the military wouldn’t recognise her when they do their rounds.
When the opportunity opened up for a teenaged Sung Sung and her younger brother to find refuge in a different country, she immediately jumped at the chance despite it coming with a great emotional cost – having to leave the rest of her family behind including her parents and remaining siblings.
“It was really hard to say goodbye to them,” she says. “You know it was a goodbye that was going to last for a long time, and there’s a chance that you’ll never see your family again. It’s stuck in your mind. You feel traumatised by it all.”
The journey to Malaysia where her papers were to be processed was dangerous and there were moments where Sung Sung feared for her life.
At the border with those who are also seeking refuge, Sung Sung saw the immense suffering of her people, especially those who were young and who have a full life ahead of them looking beyond broken and without hope. “I matured overnight,” she says of the experience.
During her U.N. interview, Sung Sung was asked which country she would like to be relocated to and her response garnered a laugh from her interviewer since most of the Chin people only “knew about America and nothing else”. By God’s grace, Sung Sung was relocated to Australia instead and she is grateful for the opportunity because she felt that Australia “suited [her] personality” a lot more.
Having lived here for 17 and a half years, Sung Sung says that she still “live[s] in all these worlds” referring to Malaysia where she first found refuge, to Mizoram, a state in Northeast India where her family are currently seeking refuge and in Thailand where many of her people are also displaced and seeking protection.
“Homesickness is real,” she says. “I cried a lot and I still do. Having to work when you’re not proficient in English was also very, very hard.”
Despite all this, Sung Sung continues to choose hope and joy for her people. Speaking about her experiences to her church community at Brunswick Baptist Church and to those who are willing to listen, Sung Sung says, “I feel like such a burden having to share our ongoing difficulties and challenges to you all, but I am grateful for all that you continue to do. My biggest hope is for our country to find freedom again and for us to contribute to another country and their people who are suffering in the same way.”
Sung Sung stresses the importance of togetherness (being together on mission) and encourages the Baptist community to continue giving and praying especially for the pastors who are all very stressed and discouraged by the current situation.
“Practical things matter,” she says. “Even just a simple phone call matters.”
The BUV currently has 33 Chin churches and 12 Karen churches. For further information or to learn how to help, please contact Multicultural consultant, Meewon Yang. If you would like to give to help the internally displaced people of Myanmar, click here.
For more information on National Refugee Week, please visit their website here. Please visit the buv.com.au/advocacy page which includes tools to help discussion, inform awareness, prompt action and enhance connections to empower Baptist Leaders to lead local mission. We are regularly updating the resources and adding new issues so check in regularly!