Last year, the Australian Baptist community mounted an advocacy, fundraising and prayer campaign on behalf of the citizens of Myanmar.  

Baptist World Aid contributed to this campaign by helping coordinate two days of lobbying in Parliament House solely on issues related to Myanmar, and distributing postcards with the call, ‘we must not forget about Myanmar.’  

Pictured: Baptist World Aid Advocacy Postcards, which you sent forwarded onto your local MP—thank you!

Thousands of these postcards, calling for targeted sanctions on the major banks that Myanmar’s military junta use for business, made their way to the office of our Foreign Minister, Penny Wong. Along with many other organisations running parallel campaigns, we were thrilled when this request was implemented by the Foreign Ministry on 1 February this year!  

While we celebrate this small win, we also know those words on the front of the postcards remain as true as they have ever been—we must not forget about Myanmar, even (and especially) amid numerous conflicts around the world competing for media attention.  

There are still masses of displaced people in and around Myanmar urgently needing ongoing humanitarian assistance, and current circumstances will require sustained advocacy on behalf of the international community towards what has been elusive in Myanmar for so long: a lasting peace. 

As such, our work continues. 

Part of the Baptist Family  

Before the most recent coup, Myanmar’s diaspora in Australia had been steadily growing through refugee intakes and family program sponsorships. The Baptist diaspora from Myanmar alone now numbers more than ten thousand people, representing a significant proportion of over 150 different ethnic groups present in the country. Our prayers, advocacy, and action are not activities conducted at arms-length from our church communities; these are our very own people. 

That’s why it didn’t take long for Rev. Tim Costello to say ‘yes’ when asked to speak on behalf of Australian Baptists at the Myanmar People’s Summit, organised by the Myanmar People’s Network and held in Melbourne on 4 March this year. 

Pictured: Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Xanana Gusmão (left) and Rev. Tim Costello (right) speaking at the Myanmar People’s Summit event in Melbourne

Alongside other notable speakers, including the Prime Minister of Timor Leste, Rev. Costello spoke with poise and passion about his own time in Myanmar, and the Myanmar’s diaspora’s special place in the wider Australian faith community. He made clear his support for the current calls by groups such as the Myanmar Campaign Network, including fresh targeted sanctions and formal recognition of the National Unity Government (also known as the government in exile).  

The Current Situation in Myanmar 

Recent reports indicate that the ruling military junta is desperately undermanned, having lost significant territory to various armed ethnic groups and coalitions. An example of the junta’s desperation is the activation of a rarely used, forced ‘conscription clause’ in Myanmar’s constitution, requiring that any person physically capable of serving in the military must now do so.  

Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in more people seeking to leave Myanmar, with the numbers of nearby refugee camps swelling significantly, along with the need for humanitarian assistance. Additionally, an increased risk of gender-related violence has meant aid organisations working in Myanmar and nearby areas have had to put more child protection and safety measures in place, to keep vulnerable people safe.  

If you’re a statistics person, the following paint a starkly clear picture: 

  • Around 18.6 million people (including 6 million children) in Myanmar are expected to need humanitarian support in 2024. Of those displaced, 3.7 million are expected to face food insecurity and malnutrition.  
  • An estimated one third of children are not enrolled in education; malnutrition is widespread, and a lack of functional health centres makes it challenging to access services when needed.  

Around 18.6 million people (including 6 million children) in Myanmar are expected to need humanitarian support in 2024.  

How You Can Help 

Alongside our advocacy efforts, Baptist World Aid has launched an ongoing appeal to support the work of our local Partners in Myanmar, including programs in areas where many refugees have been displaced for several years.  

Our Partners are helping displaced communities in Myanmar generate an income to support their family, and providing necessities such as hygiene kits, mosquito nets, water storage tanks, educational supplies, and food. They are also supporting teachers in Myanmar, so children can continue their education despite the conflict.  

If you’d like to give towards these efforts and help support families impacted by this conflict, you can do so through our Myanmar Humanitarian Response. Thank you for your ongoing support for the beautiful people of Myanmar.