There has been talk in the news recently that Thailand will soon be closing the nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border now that “a nominally civilian government has replaced the military one” (VOAnews.com, Burma Sanctions Debated After Change in Government). This would send 140,000 refugees over the border into “persecution, torture, rape, and worse” (Human Rights Watch).
It’s still in the works, and it’s hard to say how it will all play out. The idea of closing the refugee camps has been discussed on some level for years, so it could remain an idea for quite some time. But in 2009, when nearly 5,000 refugees crossed the border and formed a temporary refugee camp, they were also threatened to be sent back. International human rights groups protested, and time went by. And then slowly and under the radar, all 5,000 refugees were sent back over the border into the arms of the military, and the temporary camp was burned.
So it’s possible.
And it’s heartbreaking.
A million questions come into my mind. The first, being the selfish person that I am, is me wondering how that changes Partners, my job, and my role here. But that’s really such a small cherry in the pie, so we’ll just skip over that.
What does that mean for 140,000 refugees? What does it mean to be sent back into a land you call home, but are unwanted? What does it mean to attempt to recreate life in a place you fled, and a place you would still flee if you could? What does it mean to send in a flood of hungry people into a land where there is already food shortages?
It appears disastrous.
And so we’re praying against this, and I’d ask you to pray to. We’ve been praying for protection of these lives, and for an international recognition that this new “nominally civilian government” still remains one of the worst for violating human rights. We continue to ask for peace and for Burma to be saved.
Our greatest prayer is that God will be glorified, and that’s probably the hardest to pray. God being glorified may not look like peace, protected lives, or an end to human rights violations. What if God is the most glorified in the camps or temporary shelters; in the heart of suffering? If that is true, I would rather see God glorified and other prayers left unanswered. I would rather see eternity changed in people’s lives than see the temporary sorrows erased for momentary peace.
As Stephen and I were talking through this last night, we were processing what this could mean for the border area. What would it possibly look like for the refugee camps to close? How would things change?
We immediately see the negatives that I mentioned earlier. It seems so obviously disastrous.
But I think that’s where hope comes in.
I began to wonder: what if it is God’s way of answering our prayers? (It doesn’t appear to be, I’ll admit that. This is overtly optimistic and hopeful.) What if closing the camps is the next step for God receiving the most glory and more people coming to know him?
It’s easy for us to assume we can be the judge. That we can’t see the positives, so they don’t exist. And even if the pain, suffering, and even death appears more obviously, there’s something deep in my soul that wants to hope.
And I think that’s what hope is. Today. [It’s constantly changing for me.] It’s choosing to believe that God is innately good. That his is sovereign. That God has promised to hear the cries of his elect (and thus heard our cries) and will “give justice to them speedily” (Luke 18:7-8, ESV). That God “has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV). That we have seen things meant for evil used by God for good (Genesis 50:20).
And somehow, this all comes together in my head. I hope because God has not intended for me to understand. But he has given us this ache for eternity to push us forward with hope.
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:22-25, ESV)