Refugees Detained in Nauru
A report published this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights First reveals serious human rights abuses against asylum seekers and refugees held in an Australian-government-run detention center on the island of Nauru, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The report details concerns regarding mental health, access to adequate medical care, and the education and physical health of the asylum seekers, including 49 children. The Australian government “strongly refutes” the report’s claims. A second detention site, located in Papua New Guinea and also financed by the Australian government, is currently in the process of being dismantled after a ruling from the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court that the center violates human rights and should be closed. Australia has been asked to move the asylum seekers detained there, but the government denies responsibility. It is unclear what will happen with the refugees and asylum seekers.
Lord, we pray for the families and individuals held in detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and we pray for those seeking refuge throughout the world. May the government officials involved seek the well-being and flourishing of vulnerable individuals who have come to them for safety and security. And, Lord, we ask that these asylum seekers may be seen as individuals made in your image, rather than as security threats or as opportunities for profit and exploitation.
The Rohingya in Myanmar
This week at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Civil Society Conference in Timor-Leste, individuals and civil society organizations issued a statement calling on the governments of ASEAN to address root causes and uphold the rights of the Rohingya. The government of Myanmar continues to deny citizenship to over 1 million Rohingya and confines more than 120,000 Muslims (the majority of which are Rohingya) to internment camps. They are subject to restrictions on movement, marriage, childbirth, health, and privacy. Over 170,000 Rohingya have also fled Myanmar and the borderlands of Bangladesh. The statement calls ASEAN member states to address root causes of the treatment and exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar, end the detention of the Rohingya in detention centers, and reunify Rohingya families, among other positive recommendations.
God, we lift up our continued prayers for the Rohingya in Myanmar. We ask that you give comfort and strength to all who are displaced and marginalized by systems that are broken. Thank you for the individuals and organizations working for justice on their behalf. Bless and honor their work, Lord. Bring restoration and healing.
Thailand’s New Constitution
Following a coup in 2014, an interim military-backed National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has been in power in Thailand. On Sunday the NCPO held a referendum for a new constitution. Following a nationwide vote, the constitution was accepted. The constitution extends the influence of the military government and reduces the power of any one elected official or political party, a measure that seems directed at populist leaders who appeal to the poor, more rural population of northern Thailand. The NCPO suggests the constitution will reduce corruption and solidify reforms that have already been established. However, the military government made it illegal to campaign against the referendum.
Lord, ruler of all nations, we give thanks that you are ultimately in control. We ask that you work in and through Thailand’s new constitution and use it to further your purposes. May the voices of all people in Thailand be heard, and may those who are oppressed be protected and empowered.
Protests in Ethiopia
At least 90 people were killed by police during government protests this week in Ethiopia, and hundreds more have been placed in police and military detention centers. Protesting began in November against a government plan to change municipal boundaries that would integrate parts of Oromia into the capital city of Addis Ababa. Oromia is a region mostly populated by one major ethnic group, the Oromo. The suggested boundary changes would expand this region into an area that is home to another major ethnic group, the Amhara. Geography is often linked with ethnicity and identity in Ethiopia, and the changing of boundary lines may raise political and historical tensions. However, some activists suggest that these protests are strictly political, while others claim the protests include ethnic undertones. The current protests and violence make clear that the tensions, whatever the root causes, are escalating quickly.
God, we lift in prayer the families of individuals who have been killed and of individuals placed in detention centers in Ethiopia. Bring peace and wisdom to leaders. We pray that escalating violence due to geography, ethnicity, and political affiliation may disperse. Bring an understanding between people groups in Ethiopia—groups that have deeply rooted disagreements and fissures that will take hard work and your healing to be made new.