Prayer vigil for violence-wracked Myanmar this Saturday
St Paul's Cathedral to host vigil as death toll from anti-coup protests climbs
By Chris Shearer
Bishop Paul Barker has been hearing a lot from Myanmar recently, not much of it good.
Over the past 15 years he has made some 40 trips to teach at the country’s best theological graduate school and the Anglican college. He’s watched the conditions there begin to improve as the military eased its grip and the country opened up to the world.
But all that seems to be imploding now.
His friends, the former colleagues and students he’d met over the years, are protesting against the military coup on 1 February that followed a general election. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her party were arrested and accused of voter fraud, with military commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing now in power.
General Hlaing’s soldiers have brutally cracked down on the protestors in the week since the coup, opening fire on largely peaceful demonstrations. The official death toll stands at almost 750 killed, including almost 50 children, but the true number is likely to be much higher, says Bishop Barker.
“I’ve heard of doctors who have treated protestors with injures now being arrested and detained and disappeared,” he tells TMA. “Numerous accounts of killing of children and the killing of unarmed protestors.
“Friends of mine have seen people killed, they’ve seen bodies in the streets around them. I’m not aware of anyone I know who has been killed or injured, as far as I know, but I don’t know everything.”
With Myanmar already home to several armed insurgencies and anger rising against the brutal military crackdown, he fears that the nation of 54 million is on the precipice of slipping into civil war.
“There’s a lot of people fearing for the future of the whole nation really. It’s already an impoverished nation. The infrastructure of the country is falling apart already,” he says.
“The Australian government has been weak, I think, in its response,” he adds. “I fear there won’t be enough foreign interest or intervention to force these military people out.”
It’s for this reason that Bishop Barker and some of Melbourne’s Myanmar church leaders have decided to hold a prayer vigil for Myanmar at St Paul’s Cathedral this Saturday, 24 April.
“It’s an opportunity to pray and ask God to have mercy on the country. That’s the basic thing,” he says.
“I guess in part we want to raise the profile of praying for this country, but we don’t want it to be a political event, we want it to be a prayer vigil.
“The main thing is to pray, a secondary thing is to raise the profile, and thirdly, I think it’s really important for the morale of people - and Christians in particular - to let the people in the country know that they are not forgotten.”
Representatives from across Melbourne’s Myanmar community will be present, both Christian and non-Christian, and the event will be live streamed on St Paul’s Cathedral’s Facebook page for those who can’t be present.
Those wishing to attend in person book via https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing?eid=744408&
Myanmar Prayer Vigil
Saturday 24 April
4.00pm - 5.30pm
St Paul’s Cathedral