The country of Burma, now known as Myanmar, is located in Southern Asia. Neighboring Burma are China to the north, India and Bangladesh to the west, and Laos and Thailand to the east. Burma is shaped like a kite, with a long, southern coastal strip next to the Andaman Sea.
Burma is part of what is known as the 10-40 Window. The 10-40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. This window is also known as the “Resistance Belt” and is populated by the majority of the worlds Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. Ninety-seven percent of the World’s un-reached people groups are located within the 10-40 Window.
In the year 1813 when the missionary Adoniram Judson first came to Burma, the country was entirely unreached with the gospel and very hostile to Christianity. Judson had only 18 Christian converts after laboring in the country for 9 years. However, by his death in 1850, 37 years after his arrival in the country, the Lord had done a mighty work. The country which had been entirely unreached now had 163 missionaries and indigenous church leaders carrying on his work. Also the entire Bible had been translated into Burmese and there were 63 churches planted. The work has definitely been begun in Burma, but it is far from completed!
Although the gospel has reached a large part of Burma, there are still a surprising number of un-reached people groups populating this land. Burma is composed of 142 different people groups and 51 of these groups are still un-reached and have not yet heard the gospel.
The primary religion of Burma is Buddhism, although it is no longer the official state religion. Theoretically there is freedom of religion in this country; however, any religion that the government feels harmful to the state is actively discouraged, harassed, and persecuted in more severe forms. Christianity is top on the list of “harmful religions”.
A secret document entitled “Program to Destroy the Christian Religion in Burma” has been found and details, point by point, how to wipe Christianity out of Burma. This document opens with the line “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practiced”. According to the document if anyone is caught evangelizing, they are to be imprisoned.
Take a look at the Chin Christians who live in the remote mountains of northwestern Burma. It is said that 90% of this people group are Christians. According to Voice of the Martyrs, these Christians “are subject to forced labor, torture, extrajudicial killings and religious persecution by the country’s military regime.” Soldiers often force these Christians to give of their money and help build Buddhist pagodas in places where there are few to no Buddhist residents. Also the military at times try to force the Christians to worship and pray as Buddhists.
One Chin man attended what he thought was to be a “social welfare” session by the government. Instead it was actually a propaganda session led by a Buddhist monk. The man explained, “In the training we were taught the 17 facts of how to attack and disfigure Christians”. This 17 point method encouraged people to criticize the Christian way of life and accuse it of corrupting the Burmese culture, point out weaknesses in the Christian religion, and attack any Christians, using both violent and non-violent means. The government often tries to pressure Christians to convert back to Buddhism either by difficult persecution or offering the Christians large amounts of material wealth and prosperity if they will renounce Christianity.
The translation and printing of Bibles and other solid Christian literature is a great need in this country. Throughout Burma there are about 107 different languages. Approximately 25 of these languages have the New Testament or portions of the Bible translated into their own language. However, only 2 languages have the entire Bible translated. Also, there is a great shortage of solid Christian literature because of import restrictions.
The needs in Burma are great, yet the Lord is doing a great work. We need to pray that the gospel would continue to spread throughout the land and to all unreached people groups despite the persecution; that the Lord would bless His church and that it would remain pure and uncompromising with the truth; that the Christians would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power according to His glorious might”; and that the name of the God would be made great through the country of Burma!