Friday, October 19, 2007

Protest monk in prison - Peaceful Christians in church

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.


splim said...

Dear Pastor,

I too had asked the question whether Christians in Burma participated in the recent protests. Now I had my answer. Well, at least the Presbyterians didn’t. I guess the Baptists being the largest denomination in Burma would have received the same warning and didn’t protest too.

Though disappointed, I’m not too surprised given the status of Christians in Burma. They are already a persecuted minority. Any backlash will be much more terrible for them. The military junta will not dare to wage an all out war against the monks given the status of Buddhism in the country. There have been stories of soldiers and even a few generals disobeying orders and refused to shoot at the monks. With the Christians, it’s a different story. I don’t think the military has any qualms about wiping them out, sort of a religious cleansing instead of ethic cleansing.

Like you pastor, I too think that the Christians in Burma have lost a golden opportunity to stand against evil. When Burma becomes a democracy, which I believe in my prayers she will, the Christians witness may be somewhat diminished. But I will not be so quick to condemn ( I’m sure you didn’t, pastor) my brothers and sisters in Burma given their circumstances.

It may be well to look at ourselves, the Christians in Malaysia. How ready are we to take a stand against evil and injustice? Are we prepared for a Ops Lallang 2? In another week it will be the 10th anniversary of Ops Lallang. I don’t think going by our involvement in social justice issues, we, the Malaysian church have recovered from our trauma. Though like the Christians in Burma, we are a minority but whatever persecution we have here is mild compared to the persecutions faced by the Burmese Christians. We are not interested in social justice issues simply because there is too much to lose being middle class. At least I speak for myself as that has been my struggle and still is, to a certain extent.

May the words of those OT prophets like Amos & Isaiah give me no rest until I take a stand.

Sian Pheng

splim said...

Sorry. Next week is the 20th anniversary of Ops Lallang and not the 10th.

Wong Fong Yang said...

Hi Sian Pheng,

Thank you for your comment. I agreed with you that there is a cost to be paid for fighting against injustices. It involves personal sacrifice. That is what middle class christians have too much to lose.

I do not judge my Myanmar friends. There are already living in very oppresive environment.

The 20th anniversary of operation Lalang is a time to reflect. How is Malaysian Church faring all these years with regards to issue of social justice and mission to all people groups in Malaysia.

Pastor Wong

splim said...

Click on the link below for a power point presentation prepared by Anthony Loke from STM and Hilmy an ex ISA detainee on the ISA and remembering Ops Lalang

Alex Tang said...

hi Fong Yang,

Maybe the Malaysia Church had learnt her lesson too well 20 years ago. Since then, she has been hiding in a religious ghetto with the more educated and richer ones emigrating.

Zach said...

Over the last 2000 years, the church of Jesus Christ has faced the likes of Op Lallang, ISA, and military juntas many, many times all over the world. When the church looks to the beautiful, glorious, risen Lord Jesus Christ who died for us and sees that dieing is gain in order to be with Him, then the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. The only way Satan can defeat us is when we choose to surrender our committment to Christ and His kingdom of love, mercy, truth, justice, and self-sacrifice.