Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has been deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Myanmar since the military coup in February 2021. More than two years after the coup, the crisis in the country continues in manifold forms.
The WCC conveyed its concerns and deep disappointments about the alarming situation in Myanmar during the past two years. The joint letters and statements by the general secretaries of WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) on 3 February, 4 March, and 31 March 2021, the statement adopted by the WCC Executive Committee on 17 November 2021, and the joint statement by WCC and CCA general secretaries on 3 November 2022 expressed grave concerns of the worldwide churches on the worsening situation following the military coup, which unravelled a decade of hard-won democratic and human rights gains. It is with great distress that the WCC has been receiving reports of the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilian political leaders, human rights defenders and journalists, lack of due process for those arrested, the disproportionate and deadly use of force against protestors, and restrictions on independent media and access to information. Attacks by Myanmar’s military on civilians, schools, and health facilities and workers have featured prominently in this context, as have attacks on theological seminaries and churches in Kachin and Kayah states. The military has suspended humanitarian aid access to western Rakhine state, where more than a million vulnerable people are in urgent need of aid a month after a powerful cyclone devastated the region, which is already-impoverished.
It is with great dismay that churches across the world heard the news about the arrest, detention and the sentencing of Pastor Hkalam Samson, a Baptist minister who was the head of the Kachin Baptist Convention on accusations of terrorism, unlawful association and inciting opposition to the regime in Myanmar.
We are deeply disappointed that there has been no progress on implementing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) five-point peace plan, which was agreed between ASEAN and Myanmar coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing soon after he took over power in February 2021.
We are also concerned about the plight of the many refugees from Myanmar who remain in limbo, including more than one million ethnic Rohingyas from Rakhine State in Bangladesh who Myanmar refuses to recognize as its citizens.
The WCC central committee, meeting in Geneva on 21-27 June 2023, therefore:
Requests WCC member churches across the world to initiate advocacy in their respective countries on the current situation in Myanmar, especially urging the military junta to return the control that they have illegitimately seized, and to return Myanmar to the democratic path from which they improperly diverted the country and its people.
Urges the WCC general secretary to appeal to the Myanmar military authority to release Pastor Hkalam Samson who is under detention on accusations of terrorism, unlawful association and inciting opposition to the regime in Myanmar;
Endorses the proposed plan of CCA and WCC to organize an international advocacy conference on Human Rights and Democratisation in Myanmar which will initiate a global ecumenical advocacy strategy and network to work towards democracy and human rights in Myanmar;
Urges all WCC member churches, regional ecumenical organisations, national councils of churches, ecumenical partners and specialized ministries to support the churches and people of Myanmar in active solidarity and prayer.