Standing with the People of Burma (Myanmar)
There are thousands of struggles for justice and peace around the world. One cannot focus on all of them, all of the time. But I have always had a strong sense of connection to the struggles of the people of Burma. Maybe it’s because I am Baptist. Baptists have been in Burma since pioneer missionaries Adonirom and Ann Judson arrived in 1814. Because of this history, the hill peoples of Burma, the Karins and Kachins, are mostly Christian whereas the Burmese of the lowlands are mostly Buddhist–except for a Muslim minority near the border with Bangladesh.
That Baptist-Burma connection is evident currently in the efforts of the American Baptist Churches, USA to resettle Burmese refugees. To learn more or even participate, click here.
The current military junta, with the Orwellian name of SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Committee), has been in control since 1988 when it cancelled the results of a democratic election and proceeded to kill and jail thousands. The symbol of the struggle, Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Ong Sawn Sue Chee), has not been killed because she is the daughter of Burma’s equivalent of George Washington, the national hero Aung San who led the revolution for Burma’s independence after WWII. Educated in Britain and once having worked with the U.N., Suu Kyi’s character has been shaped by her father’s fierce belief in a free, democratic Burma, and by the nonviolence of Gandhi. (She got to know Gandhi’s story intimately when her mother was Burmese ambassador to India.)
The current crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations demands solidarity. It will be difficult for governments to put pressure on the military unless China can be persuaded to threaten to cut off their lucrative natural gas contracts with Burma. (Since it was the military government which renamed the country, Myanmar, I continue to use the older name.) One way they could do that would be if the U.S. and the E.U. both threatened to pull out of the Olympic Games–which would cost China billions–unless China pressured Burma to stop the killings and jailings.
But what can we do as ordinary people do to help the Burmese? The Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the OTHER BPF, not the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America) has a list of vigils one can attend here. Or you can organize your own. Find the embassy of Myanmar in your country and organize vigils or protests there.
Sign the petition of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. Pray for the Burmese people. Urge your government officials to pressure Burma with diplomatic and economic tools. Especially encourage your government to make it illegal for any company operating in your nation to sell weapons or ammunitions to Burma. Create citizens’ boycotts of Burmese goods. Let the military government of Burma know in every way that the whole world is watching. They cannot repress democracy forever and we will not treat their actions as “purely an internal matter.”
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