Rev. Stan Murray is the Area Director for Southeast Asia and Japan for International Ministries. He is also a member of the Burma Task Force.
This group photo is of the delegation that visited the US State Department on February 8, 2013. Included in this photo are Florence Li, Aundreia Alexander (American Baptist Home Mission Society), Roy Medley (General Secretary of ABC USA), Rothang Chhangte and Romundo Barreto (Baptist World Alliance), as well as Rev. Ler Htoo (Karen Baptist Churches USA) and Dr. Duh Kam (Chin Baptist Churches USA). Joining us were a number of Kachin pastors and advocates from the Kachin population that have resettled here in the US. I was privileged to represent International Ministries.
Our group’s concern was to give perspective from our vantage point of knowing the Kachin Baptist Convention in Burma with several of our party having traveled there recently to take note of the realities first hand. There is intense fighting, pillaging, rape, conscription of men and youth, using churches for military offices or simply burning them to the ground, not allowing humanitarian supplies into the refugee camps where over 100,000 Internally Displace People (IDPs) live, and many more atrocities.
We met with six officials of the U.S. State Department. They each have differing responsibilities for several countries in SE Asia, some with a specific charge for Burma only. They came from offices of religious freedom, human rights, refugees and immigration. Their jobs require them to know and understand the realities in Burma (and its neighbors, particularly China) and advocate for a “just” solution for those things that need to change.
The State Department officials were very open to listening to our delegation and we spent an hour and half talking with them. They were surprised and impressed that so many knowledgeable folks gathered for this time of advocacy and were very interested to hear about our history with the Baptists in Burma. These State Department folks will take what they learned from us and then use that information as they advise their superiors, senators and representatives who have policy-making clout to see things change with regard to how the US reacts to these atrocities.
I was happy to find that the State Department people with whom we spoke were well-informed, very open to hearing what we had to offer, and stayed an additional half hour or so to engage us individually to get additional clarification on some of the matters we discussed. They even joined in the preverbal group picture! It gave me hope that our government really does pay attention to injustice, violations of human rights, and religious liberty and freedom issues in other countries. It was a long day but time well spent.