Christians in Burma fear continued violence after the country's November election, a process condemned by international leaders as neither free nor fair. Some observers, however, saw a glimmer of hope after pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi—whose party won the 1990 election—was released after 15 years of house arrest.
"The elections are a joke to the people here," David Eubank, founder of Christians Concerned for Burma, said by phone from Northern Karen state, where Christians are more prevalent. "People are hopeful that Suu Kyi's release could break things open. She is the greatest human hope in Burma right now."
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party declared victory in Burma's first election in 20 years, while more than 10,000 refugees fled to Thailand due to election-related violence. The World Evangelical Alliance predicts that the new regime will launch a major military offensive against ethnic minorities.
Benedict Rogers, Christian Solidarity Worldwide's advocacy officer for South Asia, said he sees Suu Kyi's release as the regime's attempt to divert attention from the election.
"I see no indication of the widespread discrimination, and in certain areas persecution, improving," Rogers said by phone near the India-Burma border. "There is a window of opportunity now [that's] a carpe diem moment for Burma and for the international community. That opportunity will come only with sustained international pressure."
Some international observers speculate that sanctions against Burma could soon be dropped. Steve Gumaer, head of Partners Relief and Development, a Christian NGO working on the Thailand-Burma border, ...