“Nowhere to go, no land to live, no bed to sleep. Help my people, save my people.” These are the cries and pleas from innocent displaced villagers, fleeing from a devastating array of brutalities: the onslaught of airstrikes and bombings by Myanmar military on villages and towns, torture and indiscriminate killings of its own citizens, and even the heartless burning alive of young helpless children and mothers on transport vehicles.
This has been happening daily in Myanmar ever since the start of the coup in February 2021. This is still happening now and getting worse. To date, tens of thousands of civilians have been arrested and killed, and millions have been displaced in the country I call home – Myanmar.
How do I find peace? How do I seek justice for all the atrocities and crimes against humanity on my people? Which justice processes can right the wrongdoers of their offending behavior?
Like many others, I’ve been thinking a lot about justice — what it is, how it looks, where it comes from, and whose justice it is. I’ve been studying the Bible and praying for a godly understanding of justice as I seek ways to find justice for my people and restore their lives.
Earlier this year, I was at the border with many of the displaced villagers who were vulnerable and lost, physically and emotionally unwell. Protecting them were a group of healthy, young, educated men and women who had fled the cities to take up arms to defend themselves, their country, and their people instead of attending schools, university, or working towards a career path. They seemed to be physically healthy but emotionally unwell and psychologically scarred from all they have suffered. The Lord who is our refuge gave me strength to comfort these people.
A few days after I left the border, I received a call that fierce clashes had erupted with many injuries and casualties on both sides. I received pictures of the volunteers that escorted us injured and hospitalised, limbs amputated due to bombs and mines – the youngest victim being a 4-year-old boy. The longer these conflicts go on, the more we see the reality that peace and reconciliation will have to pave the way to restore the country. It is a dicult and an uphill task, so as Christians, what can we do?
In the Scriptures, God cares about peace and justice, Mathew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God. He is a God of justice and righteousness.” Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” God cares passionately for the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in our society.
The principles of restorative justice are portrayed on the cross where the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection made the restoration of our broken relationship with God possible. We became right with God and were made righteous due to His grace, mercy, and forgiveness. But it came with the cost of the sacrificial Lamb, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ who died for our sins.
The power of this cross must become our model and framework of how we view, comprehend, and seek justice in all sectors of our lives, from self to family to community to the world, from criminal justice to racial justice. Biblical justice does not put one down for the sake of the other. It makes everyone, both the wrongdoers and the wronged, whole.
God has also shown that forgiving is the way to redemption and new life. Forgiveness is integral to a fully restorative outcome – a victory – in any process of righting wrong. Believe me for I am a victim myself, displaced and unable to return home, separated from my loved ones for more than a year. People may say I am living a comfortable life in Singapore and Thailand, but God created me to be a citizen of Myanmar and that is where I belong.
I am one of the many Christians who have been praying not only for the victims but also for the offenders. You can only find peace when you fully embrace and have Christ in you to a point where you can look at your offender in the eyes and say the words Christ said on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’ve done.”
With the deteriorating conditions and many lives sacrificed from both sides, many neighbouring countries and institutions have called for peace and reconciliation talks in Myanmar. The global Baptist family has stood with us in solidarity throughout this journey, and we pray that this commitment continues.
We also pray for peace and justice like a river so that the grief of war may end. We pray that God’s justice will be at work in the world — restoring our relationship with Him and one another, directing us to see each other as image-bearers of God, and treating everyone with equality, fairness, and justice. May we all create, restore, and sustain dignity in human lives and relationships with the same grace and love that God has given us so that all may experience victorious life.