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On the Burmese side of the Moei River, the reality of the Burma Army attack was there for all to see. Where just a few weeks before had stood a thriving community with a church, school, houses, and clinic, there was now little more than ashes.

The pastor came and sat next to me as we looked at the burned-out ruins of his church: a few charred bamboo pillars and some pews. A beam that once held up the roof now formed a cross, symbol of the people's suffering.

In an operation that plays out regularly in eastern Burma, the troops had set fire to the homes, looted and destroyed the clinic, burned the crops, and set the church ablaze. This particular village had good intelligence systems; the people knew the military was on its way. Villagers crossed the river into Thailand and remained there until it was safe. Not for the first time, they watched their village burn. Had the people not escaped, they would have been killed, raped, or taken for forced labor. They moved a few miles upriver and built a new community, in the knowledge that it too would someday be destroyed.

"We have to leave village after village, house after house," the pastor told me. "But it increases our faith. We are Christians; we know God will help us. But please remember us in your prayers. Please do not forget."

North Americans rarely read about Burma (also called Myanmar) in their newspapers, though the courage of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi garnered a few stories last year. Neither the plight of the 5 million Karen and the few hundred thousand Karenni nor the persecution of Burmese Christians is likely to see much news coverage. That news gap is troublesome because the situation in Burma is one of the most brutal in the world.

'Buddhist' Terrorism

The nearly ...

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March 2004

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