Christians Join Global Day of Action for Burma

( [email protected] ) Oct 06, 2007 09:35 AM EDT

A Global Day of Action for Burma will be observed Saturday around the world as people express support for the country’s peaceful protestors who have been victims of the ruling junta’s violent crackdown in recent weeks.

“We urge as many people as possible to stand in solidarity with the people of Burma at this epic moment,” expressed Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, in a statement. “We call on Christians to pray continuously, and to join the demonstrations on Saturday.”

The initiative is being spearheaded by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Burma Campaign U.K., Crisis Action and other religious and human rights organizations.

Last week, Burma’s junta began a major crackdown on Buddhist monks leading peaceful demonstrations and the tens of thousands of protestors that joined them.

Military troops used bullets, tear gas, and clubs to break up the street protests, leaving more than 200 dead and nearly 6,000 detained, according to dissident groups. The government, however, claims only 10 people were killed.

Government-sanctioned violence persisted this week as the junta hunted for four key Buddhist monks who led the uprising. Twenty-nine monks were suspected of being protest leaders and 25 of them were already in custody, reported The Associated Press on Friday.

The government also launched an intimidation campaign that included late-night arrests of citizens.

Earlier this week, at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool, England, Zoya Phan, a refugee from Burma, held up iron shackles smuggled out of a Burmese jail.

“This is what those monks who have been arrested will be forced to wear while they face torture including electric shocks and the iron rod, where a rod is rubbed up and down on your shins until the skin and flesh is worn away and the rod is grinding on bone,” she told the conference, according to a CSW report.

CSW’s advocacy officer for South Asia, Benedict Rogers, who was also at the Blackpool conference, said he heard from one man how a group of prisoners in one jail “were literally roasted over a very hot fire, repeatedly stabbed, then put in a tub of salt water.”

“I met a man who had been hung upside down for an entire night and repeatedly pistol-whipped and swung against a pillar," he added.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been ruled by various military regimes since 1962. The current junta took over after crushing a 1988 democracy movement that led to the deaths of at least 3,000 people.

The junta is accused of persecuting ethnic minorities; squashing freedom of speech, assembly and worship; ordering the destruction of churches; instituting child labor and human trafficking; and holding thousands of political prisoners – including Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

It is also accused of sanctioning sexual violence against women of ethnic minorities, with gang rapes making up nearly half of the reported cases documented against women of the Chin ethnic minority – about 90 percent of which is Christian –according to a recent report by CSW. Furthermore, at least a third were committed by officers.

In London, participants will march Saturday past the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street and conclude with a rally at Trafalgar Square.

“No matter what the regime do to us, we won’t stop demanding our freedom, our basic human rights. They might have suppressed protests in the short term, but we will not give in. We will win our freedom,” declared refugee Phan.

“But without more support from the international community, my people will have to pay for their freedom with their blood. So many of us are being killed, so many being torture. I ask again…please help us.”