What an incredible privilege it was for a delegation of 40 Baptists from around Australia to meet with MP’s and Senators at Parliament House in October to advocate for the people and country of Myanmar. CONVERGE is an annual event facilitated by Australian Baptist Ministries with the purpose of using our strength as a group representing 1000 churches and 350,000 Baptists around Australia, to advocate together on issues that are close to the heart of Baptists. This year, Myanmar was the focus of the campaign.
Since the military coup in 2021, the number of displaced people in Myanmar has risen from 380,000 to 1.9 million – a five-fold increase in just 3 years – and that doesn’t include the thousands who have fled the country to seek refuge elsewhere. The escalating conflict and violence coupled with disaster caused by natural hazards has left families living in makeshift homes, schools and camps scattered through the jungle where they hide from daily airstrikes. (272 airstrikes from May to August 2023*)
Within the Baptist Union of Victoria, 56 (16%) of our church congregations originate from different ethnic groups within Myanmar. These churches are both supporting their local congregation members, and their families and communities back in Myanmar, and this year in particular the BUV has had a focus on standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters facing this ongoing hardship, through our Stand with Myanmar initiatives.
Our Victorian CONVERGE delegation comprised representatives from Myanmar from our Chin, Karen, Kachin and Zomi churches, as well as members from the BUV Support Hub, Baptist World Aid Australia and Baptist Mission Australia.
As the Junta continues a campaign of violence and oppression against their own people, Australian Baptists urged the Federal Government to take further action focussed on 3 “asks”, namely;
- To follow the example of USA, Singapore, Canada and the UK in sanctioning the Junta’s two primary financial institutions to limit their capacity to trade and divest from companies doing business with the military
- To follow the lead of the European Parliament by formally and publicly recognising the elected shadow government (or government in exile) as the legitimate government of Myanmar
- To increase diplomatic pressure on the Government of India to cease arms sales by private Indian firms and grant exit visas to Burmese people who have been granted refugee visas for Australia and are currently being detained in camps in Mizoram
Lobby groups were well received by the Immigration Minister, the Speaker of the House, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Senators, with interest shown from the majority in how they could assist.
Please consider joining other Australian Baptists in this campaign and sending a letter to the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong. Click here to be directed to Baptist World Aid Australia’s website for an easy email template, a prefilled email or to order prewritten postcards for yourself or your church that can be signed and sent direct to the Foreign Minister.
Please continue to pray that our meetings have an impact on Australian Government policy and our humanitarian programmes and that peace will prevail in Myanmar.
Thanks to Australian Baptist Ministries for coordinating and to our CONVERGE representatives for joining in this collaborative event.
TO GIVE TO THE HELP THE PEOPLE OF MYANMAR
Download here your giving slip to be printed and handed out on the day
EFT direct deposit information for church offering donations:
BSB Number: 013 247
Account Number: 296 138 403
Payee Account Name: Baptist Mission Australia
Reference: *Church Name* Myanmar
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*Source: Progressive Voice Myanmar Report