When I met Rev. Ring at the Bangkok Mission Consultation, I immediately asked him about the political situation in Myanmar. "Did you and the Christians in Myanmar go to the street and protest?" Ring was horrified that I would asked such a question. "Of course not, who would be so silly to risk his life." His denomination leader who is a General Secretary commented: "In fact before I left Yangon, the military junta sent someone to warn me and instructed me to tell my fellow Presbyterian Christians not to participate in street protest." I know both Rev. Ring and Rev. Lauengzava well because I have been helping the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM)since 1995. I risked my life by going to Kalaymyo (the headquarter of PCM) to train their leaders and to bring resources to their seminary. The flight from Yangon to Kalaymyo is always fraught with dangers. The pilot flew the plane as if it is a jet fighter plane. He taxied down in full speed! On one occasion, a friend who went with me on the mission trip vowed that he would not go back to Myanmar again. I looked at Rev. Ring and Rev. Lauengzava with disbelief. "I thought you would identify with the people. Look at what the military junta has done to your people. This would be your best moment to identify with the nation to protest against your government. The Buddhist monks are providing spiritual and intellectual leadership. They are willing to lay down their lives for a worthy cause." They shrugged their shoulders thinking that I am out of my mind.
The Star reported that a Buddhist monk has been jailed for seven and a half years for taking part in mass protests against Myanmar's military junta. Eik Darea, 26, was the first monk known to have been sentenced for his part in protests. He was defrocked and could end up in labor camp. Many monks were brutally beaten to death. 3000 people had been arrested and sent to unknown destinations. Soldiers raided 20 monasteries, arresting many monks. The military junta aimed at striking fear. But the monks were not cowed by these actions. They had certainly demonstrated moral courage for such a time like this.
It would be silly for Myanmar Christians to remain silent. A day would come when the country is liberated and they would not have a voice in nation building because they failed to show solidarity with the people.
We may cull from the lessons in Germany during Dietrich Bonhoeffer's time. He had the moral vision and courage to stand up against Hitler's totalitarian regime. He saw clearly what others viewed dimly. Many Christians then could not see the evilness of Hitler. Bonhoeffer died a martyr's death. But his spiritual legacy lives on. There is a price to be paid for speaking against injustices, for going against evil regime. John the Baptist's head was sitting on the platter for speaking against Herod the tetrarch. History is repleted with such horror stories.
I am a great admirer of Aung San Suu Kyi. She had been under house arrest for 18 years. She did not even attend her husband's funeral because she knew that once she left Myanmar she would not be allowed to enter into the country again. Her British husband had been told by Aung San Suu Kyi at their wedding day that her love for the country takes precedent over everything else. He understood and supported her. She firmly believes that a day will come when Myanmar will be liberated. I believe so as I have been praying that God will work in such a way that the generals will fight against each other and one of them will seize power with the support of the people and then turn the country over to Aung San Suu Kyi's party which won the election in 1998.
I have been asked why the Chin Refugees fled their country and trespassed two national boundaries and landed in Malaysia - the answer is obvious. They prefer freedom rather than living under oppressive military junta's rule. Young men and women from Chin state living in fear in our Malaysian jungles hiding from the Rela's harassment. What an irony! They have exchanged one form of oppression for another. Thank God that Malaysian Christians are reaching out to them with love.