In an unthinkable scene, a 16-year-old boy lost a foot after stepping on a landmine planted next to a church in a Karenni village in Burma. Placed there by the Burma military after they burned a Christian church, the violence is the latest in a string of civilian villages that have been pummeled by relentless attacks.
Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a Christian relief organization founded by former U.S. Army Special Forces and Ranger officer Dave Eubank, focuses on helping “oppressed ethnic minorities” in war zones. In a recent update, FBR described the horrifying and all-too-common scene.
“The boy screamed in agony as the landmine exploded, ripping his foot off. Behind him, the church burned,” the update reads. “What was once a peaceful Karenni village has now been torn apart by the marauding Burma Army. Troops from Division 66 have been attacking this village all week. The villagers are hiding in the mountains behind the village and we have come to know them well over the last several days. Each day they pray their village is not burned.”
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Burma, also referred to as Myanmar, suffered a coup back in February of 2021. The military took control after Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD part won in convincing fashion. The military seized control on 1 February 2021 after a general election which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide. Military leaders claimed widespread election fraud and demanded a re-vote.
“The Burma Army has been burning villages and killing villagers at a speed and a force we have not seen before,” FBR said. The latest attack happened in the village of Daw Nye Ku and caused all the villagers to flee. A brand new church was burned by the army in the attack and, insidiously, they planted landmines all around the church and village so that when villagers returned, they would be severely wounded or killed.
Eubank himself narrowly avoided one.
We entered and saw the church on fire. It gave me a sick feeling to watch the beautiful church that had just been built, now burning. The roof collapsed and flames licked around what remained of the doors. We knew the Burma Army placed land mines in villages they occupied so we were watching our feet as we went in to film the burning church.
“As we got close to the church I saw that they had also shot up a cross just outside the church,” Eubank explained. “I stopped looking for landmines in the ground and took a step forward to take a photo. One of our Ranger teammates, nicknamed Cobra, stepped up behind me and passed me on the side. When he turned to come back to me, a villager who was with us shouted, ‘Stop! Landmine!’ He pointed down and there I could see the mine clearly, about a foot away from where I had just stepped, and less than an inch away from the heel print of Cobra’s boot as he stepped over it. The villager had also stepped over it without seeing it but when he turned around he saw it. His alertness saved our legs and maybe our lives.”
Moments later a 16-year-old boy, who is described by Eubank as a ‘Karenni volunteer’, stepped on a landmine during a sweep of the area. He screamed out in agony and was carried attended to by the FBR team.
“I’m grateful that we have a chance to help this boy and we will do our best to get him a good prosthesis and support any decision he wants to make for his future. I’m grateful for you all who care about people being killed, maimed, chased, their churches burned and homes destroyed. We thank God that they and we are not alone in this. Thank you for helping us all here in Burma,” Eubank said.
For more information on how FBR is helping oppressed people groups and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how you can pray for the people of Burma and people in other conflict zones, visit the Free Burma Rangers website.