WASHINGTON (BWA) Baptists from North America, Europe and the Asia/Pacific region are mobilizing personnel and resources to assist victims of a devastating cyclone and its resulting flooding in Myanmar.Baptist World Aid, the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has pledged $50,000 for relief assistance and is coordinating relief efforts with Baptists around the world.

Hungarian Baptist Aid has flown a team into Bangkok, Thailand, and is awaiting clearance to enter Myanmar, formerly known as Burma and renamed in 1989. This team, which is expected to be joined by another small group from Australia, will assess the needs on the ground and contact BWAid via satellite phone to report.

Baptists in Norway, Sweden, Canada and Britain have pledged their assistance. Baptists in Virginia and North Carolina in the United States are readying teams to enter Myanmar, if permitted.

Three national groups in the United States–American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., USA, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist General Conference–are putting plans in place to respond.

His Nets, a charity that provides mosquito nets to help prevent the spread of malaria, has offered its assistance through BWAid.

Relief aid to Myanmar will be accomplished through the Myanmar Baptist Convention, the largest in Asia with more than 1.1 million believers, most of whom belong to marginalized and oppressed ethnic groups such as the Karen, Chin and Kachin.

Baptists in Myanmar are among those affected by the cyclone and floods. Baptist buildings and personal property of Baptist members have been destroyed or badly damaged.

Nyaw Simon, a Myanmar refugee living in Canada, appealed for assistance for her country. “Please help Burma in anyway you can ¦. Burmese people are strong and courageous in the midst of many hardships,” said the daughter of Saw Simon, founder and principal for the Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College in the Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Saw Simon received the BWA Human Rights Award in 2000 for his work among refugees from Myanmar who fled their country due to oppression by the military government. “I hope Burma will rise up again someday,” Nyaw Simon said.

Myanmar experienced a destructive cyclone that hit the Southeast Asian country on Saturday, May 3, killing an estimated 22,000 people, generating fears that the death toll will rise above 100,000 as tens of thousands more are missing. Large areas of the country are heavily flooded.

Among the immediate needs of those affected by the cyclone and the flooding are for clean drinking water, nonperishable food, blankets and medical kits.

Donations to the Myanmar relief effort may be made to the BWAid Emergency Response Fund at www.bwanet.org/bwaid.

Eron Henry is associate director of communications at the Baptist World Alliance.

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