We walked into the hiding place after four days spent looking at Burma Army camps. The people in this hiding place site were all displaced earlier this year by one of the new camps we just photographed. The people here had been fleeing since the Burma Army first started their attacks in this area of Western Karen State in 1972. Since then, they have fled attacks many times. One 62 year old man told us he thought he had fled 500 times in his lifetime.
There were 17 families hiding here in a small ravine in a bamboo thicket. Their homes are small shacks made of bamboo and grass, some covered in tarps that our teams had given them earlier. There are two small water points where pieces of bamboo channeled the small flow of a little stream. Here the families can collect water and bathe. As we walked into the site, there was a plastic tarp spread on the ground, with children sitting on it, as one of the team led them in songs and games. Mothers and fathers stood behind, holding babies, smiling and laughing with their small huts right behind them. As we got closer, the team handed out presents for the children, and then the whole team sang a blessing song. It was a very moving melody, with powerful words about God being with us at all times. I felt very sad that the people had to live like this, but at the same time, I felt the more powerful emotion of love, hope and joy, as the team and the families bonded together. I thought, ‘ this is wonderful and the Burma Army probably wouldn’t believe it if they saw it’. Here are people that they are chasing who have lost so much, who are still smiling and singing and who haven’t given up.
I looked around the cluster of small huts, and smiling and happy people. I looked as the medics began to prepare for treatment and I thought, ‘this is a wonderful thing’. I felt satisfied. Not satisfied with the situation and the people in hiding, but satisfied that all of us at this site were happy together and that on this day, we would all eat well and sleep well. Later that same night other Karen from different displaced villages came to sing carols at the hide site. They went to every family’s house and sang. As we looked up at the stars and listened to the singing, I thought, “This really is Christmas.”
I want to thank all of you who pray for, love, and help these people, and all of you who help us here.
God bless you and Merry Christmas,
A relief team leader
Western Karen State, Burma
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