The Unfundamental Conversion

When God is Let In, and Children are Still Murdered

December 19th, 2012 | Posted by Lana Hope in Missions | Politics | SE Asia

school shirt

You’ve probably seen this picture a lot, on facebook, and on blog posts responding to it.

And just like all the other blogs, I thought I’d add my two cents. Because this kind of talk makes me sick, too.

Lets suppose God is that fickle that he’d withhold his power from innocent kids because of secular adults. Or suppose God is not all-powerful and almighty, and so in order for God to stop a tragedy, we have to open the doors first.

If the explanation is true, then I should see evidence that God abandons “godless” people groups while simultaneously protecting those people groups who do worship him.

Meet my friends, the Karen of Burma.  Here’s some pictures of the children worshiping.



At one point, largely in part to the ground work of Sarah Boardman Judson (second wife of the famous Adoniram Judson), the tribe was mostly Christian. Today many are Buddhists and some still animists.  At any rate, the Karen in the area I visited, and those who speak the dialect I heard, are  largely Christian.

And they let God in. They have worship every morning at 5 a.m. They have worship again at 6 p.m. Some are seen with their hands clinched together in prayer for long periods. They have faith.

And one of my friends played me footage of a refugee camp that had just burned hours before.  The government lit it on fire. And left with nothing, no houses and no shoes, the Karen were gathered together worshiping God.


They let God in.

And yet, the horror of life still crossed their path.

Here’s more quotes on the persecution the Karen undergo.

When the Burmese soldiers arrived at his village, Maung Taungy knew what would happen next. Seven villagers were arrested, their feet bound together with rope, and they hung upside down for hours. Exhausted and with their ankles lacerated, the men, suspected of being linked to the Karen resistance army, were then beaten. The soldiers did not stop until they were dead.

“After that,” remembers Maung Taungy, an ethnic-minority Karen from eastern Burma, “we became the virtual slaves of the army. They ordered us to clear the whole jungle so that they could see approaching enemies. We had to wade through chest-deep water full of snakes to get the area cleared. The work was endless, we made roads, dug trenches, cut bamboo and made fences. We had no choice but to escape.”


According to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, in the past year alone 232 villages in eastern Burma have been destroyed, forcibly relocated or otherwise abandoned.


The current offensive in Karen State follows a clear pattern. Burmese troops force Karen civilians to relocate to villages already under their control. Old villages are burnt down and land-mined to stop villagers returning. Forced labour is demanded for months at a time. Anyone caught trying to leave is shot. Without access to their farms, many Karen suffer severe food shortages.


Escaping the conflict can be as dangerous as staying. Heavily pregnant Eha Hsar Paw took two weeks to reach Ei Tu Tha camp. Shortly after arriving the camp medics told her the baby inside her was dead, killed by the stress of the journey. It was the fifth child she had lost. “Our whole village was burnt down by Burmese soldiers in February 2006. Since then we have been hiding in the surrounding jungle. The soldiers would just shoot anyone they saw, even children,” she said. “If they found our rice they would burn it, they cut holes in our cooking pots and tore up our clothes. The journey here was very difficult. We arrived at one village expecting to be able to buy food, only to find that they were also getting ready to leave and so they wouldn’t sell any to us. One of my children died in the jungle before we left and another died when we reached this camp. It was hard to leave our village, but if we had stayed there we would all be dead.”

[The article is outdated, but I chose it because its accurate and worded clearly. The abuse has not changed in the last five years. If anything, its worse. You can read more on what the UN is doing today here.]

That bottom picture above (of the little girls worshiping) was taken in one of those villages that was burned, and no one knows if those kids are even alive.


They let God in.

And yet, the horror of life still crossed their path.

I’ve seen men with eyes stabbed out by the army, and I’ve held kids who have cried on me, in terror. And I heard one kid’s story (a teenage boy who is my friend) about how he watched his mother get raped and father stabbed to death as the kids escaped into the jungle. One boy told me when he was 14, he went into hiding during the rainy season. He caught malaria and almost died. Then he met a group of small children, who were running in the jungle, lost, with no parent, and so at 14, after the rainy season had ended, he helped a group of 5 year olds roundabouts escape into Thailand by night. During the day, he and the small children sat perfectly still, not making a noise less they be shot.

The 14 year old boy had never been to school. He could not read. At the camp in Thailand, he started 1st grade.


They let God in.

And yet, the horror of life still crossed their path.

Why does evil and suffering happen? Why are 6 year olds shot? Why are villages burned, people tortured, people’s eyes stabbed out, and people killed?

If I learned one thing from the shooting last week, its not why evil happens, for I have no idea.  But this I learned: its okay to feel terror, pain, and anger over evil.  Its okay to grieve. Its okay to have no answers.

My friends wrote on FB that they hugged their kids extra tight. That they cried. And that they hurt. Everyone was upset. Even the so called spiritual leaders (and they tried coping with stupid answers).

We cried. I cried.

And I cried again, for something else, for all the people, and children, who die all over the world.  And I gave myself permission to be angry. I AM angry that the Burmese have and still are killing the Karen. I hurt for my friends. And I’m pissed off about it.  What happened in one day in America is what is happening weekly in the dry season, perhaps even daily, in Karen jungles.

Lets leave religious explanations at home, and lets just admit together.

Evil happens.

And we need to start doing a heck of a lot more about it ourselves.

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  • Jo

    Really good post. Posting on FB (hope that is OK).

  • I’m posting on Facebook too…Well done!

  • Tricia

    I saw this link on A Life Overseas. Thank you for this post.
    “But this I learned: its okay to feel terror, pain, and anger over evil. Its okay to grieve. Its okay to have no answers.”
    So true! Imagine if we saw these horrors and we felt nothing–we would be just like these shooters who are desensitized by their life of virtual violence, becoming actual violence.
    The plight of the Karen makes me angry too! I did the whole hill-tribe-trek experience over the holidays in Thailand years ago, but I didn’t know this was happening.
    So the question I have is, what can we do about it? Is there something we can do as foreigners/Americans/missionaries?

    • If you did a trek trip in Thailand, then you probably encountered the free Karen. Most of them didn’t come from current persecution, though some did. The Karen that have recently escaped from Burma are mostly in the refugee camps or villages facing the river, right on the border. The long-neck Karen are an exception; a business brought them over to offer them a better life. But the business still owns them. I think there’s one or two free long-neck Karen villages.

      As to what we can do, actually missionaries have always been very involved in helping the Karen; they were the first reached people group in Burma. (the third wife of Adonirum Judson wrote a biography on his second wife; the biography talks about her journey in treading through the jungles to reach the karen as a single woman.) Today the missionaries support orphanages, etc. I find that the Karen in the camps are getting much physical needs met because of the humanitarian groups ; the problem is they are kinda stuck there. I feel bad.

      The biggest need is for international pressure. We keep having president obama or other political people visit, but the government lies to them and says they are signing a peace agreement with the Karen and other tribal groups. Its simply lies. That’s why many are risking their lives to get video footage. It seems like the UN may be getting the picture.

  • JW

    Evil happens because people snap and/or just do bad things. Sometimes it becomes a vaccuum. With America, I think there is an entertainment factor in it. Meaning that some shooters want to get famous and outdo the previous shooters and become famous. It is a sick fantasy and as well as a decision that endangers all of us.

    I think I can agree with the argument you are saying about the shirts slogan but we have to take it in context as well with our culture. I think it probably references that at one time kids were allowed to pray in school and now they are not and it has opened the door for more violence couple with video games and entertainment. Restore those factors to a previous state and we probably don’t see any shootings or at least very few shootings.

    This is only my view.

    • I don’t agree with pray in itself though genuine Christianity is another thing. On the video games, I agree glorifying violence has a negative effect. It’s not that that in itself causes the action, but I work with troubled teens, and so i cam see how for some people participating in violence on a screen coupled in a down emotional time could put them over the edge.

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  • sootheater .

    I hate the whole world and I hate God. If this sort of shit is going to happen then there is no reason to allow anything into my heart but rage.

    There is nothing to do but meet cruelty with far greater cruelty.


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