February 4, 2021 | ATLANTA 

United Methodist Global Ministries has joined international partners in hopes and prayers for peace, justice and a return to democracy in Myanmar in the wake of an early February coup d’état that returned the Southeast Asian country to military rule following a decade of civilian government. 

“We are deeply distressed by the turn of events in Myanmar and express in strongest terms our concern for the people of Myanmar and their future,” said Roland Fernandes, general secretary of Global Ministries, the denomination’s mission agency, which includes the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). 

“We join our voices to those of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in urging a swift return to the path of democracy and the avoidance of violence.” 

The coup overturned the results of a November election. Among the leaders detained was 1991 Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been placed in detention by the military from 1989 to 2010 and whose release was a benchmark for democracy in the country formerly known as Burma. She is now being held on charges of trafficking in illegal walkie-talkies. 

The WCC and CCA agencies appealed in a joint pastoral letter to the churches of Myanmar for a non-violent resolution to the situation and for the protection of all human rights, including religious liberty. The letter said: 

“We hold the churches and communities of Myanmar in prayer and solidarity, as you seek to provide counsel and comfort to your people in this time of deep anxiety and uncertainty for the future. “

Myanmar is a predominantly (87.9%) Buddhist nation with a population of 53.5 million. Slightly more than 6% of the people are Christian and some 4% are Muslim. 

Methodism in Myanmar consists of separate Upper and Lower churches, the Methodist Church of Lower Myanmar springing from American mission work and the Upper Church from British Methodism. Global Ministries has a long history of collaboration with the Methodist Church in Lower Myanmar, which is almost 150 years old. 

In recent years, UMCOR has come to the assistance of mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees forced by the strongly pro-Buddhist Myanmar military to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. 

“Global Ministries has conveyed its concern for the setback to democracy to our Methodist colleagues in Myanmar and we pray for a future of peace and equality for the people of the country,” said Fernandes.