The Battle for Burma

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The Free Burma Rangers, anAmerican missionary group, is changing the way that aid reaches some of Myanmar's 75,000 displaced people. As Daniel Lovering writes in a recent article for FP, the Rangers have grown from just four people to an organized group of 300 involved in many of the war-torn country's conflict areas. These missionaries are bringing more than just Sunday school to the jungle: Skills taught by the Rangers include learning "how to use a GPS in the jungle; swim across a river with an improvised flotation device; shoot video and write reports; rappel from a bridge; treat villagers for wounds, malaria, and dysentery; and gingerly locate and remove land mines from the soil." In fact, although God is a central focus in their work, the Rangers don't describe themselves as a religious organization, focusing instead on their humanitarian outreach. Here's an inside look at the Rangers and the dangerous jungle where they work.

This picture, taken on May 29, 2012 shows ethnic Kachin children posing at the N-Hkawng Pa Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camp outside Mai Ja Yang, in a Kachin Independence Army (KIA)-controlled territory of Myanmar's northern Kachin state on the border with China.

Ethnic rebels from the KIA have battled the Myanmar army for a year in a conflict that has displaced more than 75,000 civilians and cast a shadow over government reforms.

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Missionaries' roles in Myanmar have changed dramatically in the last 50 years. As Lovering writes, "Christian missionaries were outlawed by successive military regimes starting in the early 1960s, though they continued to work quietly within ... [Myanmar's] borders. The Free Burma Rangers -- whose volunteers have included Buddhists, animists, and at least one atheist -- slip into Burma from neighboring countries with the cooperation of ethnic rebels."

Above, a KIA rebel soldier patrols a village near Paw Jaw, some 20 kilometers south of Laiza, a KIA-controlled stronghold on the border with China.

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The Free Burma Rangers generally work in areas with Christian populations, such as Kachin State, which has a high percentage of Baptists and Catholics. Kachin has seen fighting in the last year as tensions heightened around a Chinese hydropower dam in the region, and at least 160 people, including civilians, have been killed.

Above, a KIA rebel mans a rifle on the supply route from Laiza to Paw Jaw.

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KIA rebel soldiers guard an outpost on the supply route between Laiza, a KIA-controlled stronghold, and Paw Jaw.

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Today, more than 1.5 million Baptists live in Burma, which has a total population of more than 50 million. This community was largely founded by the Judsons, an American missionary couple, in the early 19th century. Above, KIA soldiers rest in a village in Nam Sayam, along the frontline in the area of Laiza.

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Captain Masan Zaw of the KIA mans a 20-mm machine gun at an outpost along the frontline near Paw Jaw, some 20 kilometers south of Laiza.

The United States today sends more Christian missionaries overseas than any other country. It accounted for about 127,000 of the estimated 400,000 missionaries who traveled abroad in 2010.

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Baptist Christians in the United States still honor the efforts of Judson. In February, dozens of Baptists gathered on a pier in the once-thriving seaport of Salem, Massachusetts, for a reenactment of the Judsons' departure to Burma. Above, KIA rebel soldier Nor Naw near the frontline outside Paw Jaw, some 20 kilometers south of Laiza.

http://A%20KIA%20rebel%20%20soldier%20looks%20out%20from%20a%20command%20post%20%20which%20protects%20the%20supply%20route%20between%20the%20Chinese%20border%20at%20Mai%20Ja%20Yang%20and%20%20the%20IDP%20camps%20inland,%20in%20Kachin%20state.%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20[[PAGEBREAK]Above,%20a%20%20KIA%20soldier%20looks%20out%20from%20a%20command%20post%20that%20protects%20the%20supply%20route%20%20between%20the%20Chinese%20border%20at%20Mai%20Ja%20Yang%20and%20IDP%20camps%20inland.

A KIA rebel soldier looks out from a command post which protects the supply route between the Chinese border at Mai Ja Yang and the IDP camps inland, in Kachin state.

[[PAGEBREAK]Above, a KIA soldier looks out from a command post that protects the supply route between the Chinese border at Mai Ja Yang and IDP camps inland.

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Kachin children playing alongside stocks of rice at an IDP camp north of Mai Ja Yang, in KIA-controlled territory near the Chinese border.

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A Kachin child plays outside wooden shacks at the N-Hkawng Pa IDP camp outside Mai Ja Yang.

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A Kachin woman carries her child past drying mushrooms at an IDP camp north of Mai Ja Yang.

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A KIA rebel stands guard near the Mung Lai river, close to the KIA headquarters outside Laiza.

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