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BWA condemns attacks on Karen refugee camps

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Baptist World Alliance has asked the government of the United States of America to condemn four recent attacks by Burmese militants on Karen refugees in Thailand and use its power with the government of Myanmar and with the United Nations to help prevent such further attacks.

In these forays on the Karens, most of whom are Baptists, churches and schools were burned down in which BWA leaders preached and spoke last December.

Denton Lotz, general secretary of the BWA, the global organization of Baptists, asked President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeline Allbright not only to condemn “but to impress on the … government of Myanmar that such border incursion and attacks must cease.”

In these incidents, more than 1,000 refugee homes and buildings have been lost, two people have died and some were wounded; additionally, the majority of the refugees have lost their belongings and most have now fled the camps “in a panic,” according to news from the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC).

“We appeal to you to do all you can to protect the dignity of the lives of the Karen refugees in Thailand,” Lotz wrote.

According to the KRC report, about 80 percent of the buildings in the Wang Ka Refugee Camp and almost all of those at Don Pa Kiang were burned in two separate raids by Burmese intruders Jan. 28.

On Jan. 29, the Mae La Refugee Camp was hit, and after a fight between the intruders and Thai militia, 15 houses were burned down. During their December visit, the BWA delegation worshiped at Mae La, where Baptists have more than 500 baptized members, and helped dedicate a new worship center built with funds from Australian Baptist Aid.

Moved by the plight of the more than 20 orphans in the camps, the BWA team gave $4,000 to support an orphanage for two years.

Robert Htwe, KRC president, told the BWA delegation at the time that the killing of Karens in Myanmar continues even though they have given up their fight for independence. “We want peace,” “we hate war,” “we want education” were among the signs held by young Karen refugees who welcomed the BWA leaders.

The BWA leaders promised to plead their cause at the United Nations and around the world and encourage Baptists to speak to their governments on behalf of the Karens, who they say live “in poverty and fear, but still preach, teach and baptize new believers.”

“We left the Karen refugees with a sense of admiration for their single-minded struggle for freedom and justice and the evident devotion to Jesus Christ among the believers,” said Tony Cupit, BWA director of study and research.

Baptist leaders who visited the refugees included Lotz; Cupit; Australian pastor Thorwald Lorenzen, chair of the BWA Human Rights Commission; and Edwin Lopez, BWA regional secretary for Asia.

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  • Wendy Ryan