Monthly Archives: September 2009
I received this from the U.S. Campaign for Burma today.
It’s a powerful article written in the Washington Post by one of the leaders of
Burma’s pro-democracy movement.
By U Win Tin
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Much attention has been focused on Sen. James Webb’s recent visit to my country and his meetings with Senior Gen. Than Shwe and incarcerated Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. I understand Webb’s desire to seek a meaningful dialogue with the Burmese ruling authorities. Unfortunately, his efforts have been damaging to our democracy movement and focus on the wrong issue — the potential for an “election” that Webb wants us to consider participating in next year as part of a long-term political strategy. But the showcase election planned by the military regime makes a mockery of the freedom sought by our people and would make military dictatorship permanent.
In our last free election, the Burmese people rejected military rule in a landslide, awarding our National League for Democracy party more than 80 percent of the seats in parliament. Yet the military has refused to allow the NLD to form a government. In the 19 years since that election, Burmese democracy activists have faced imprisonment, intimidation, torture and death as they have peacefully voiced demands for justice, individual and ethnic rights, and a democratic form of government that is representative of all Burma’s people.
While never ending our struggle for democracy, the NLD has continually sought to engage the regime and open a dialogue — based on peace and mutual respect — that could address Burma’s critical political as well as social problems. Make no mistake — these two issues are linked. Burma was once the rice bowl of Asia. Today, because of the regime’s destructive economic policies and its use of oppression to maintain military rule, Burma is a shattered, poverty-stricken country.
The regime is seeking to place a veneer of legitimacy on itself through showcase “elections” and claiming that “disciplined democracy” will be instituted next year. Yet in May 2008, just days after a massive cyclone devastated Burma and killed more than 100,000 people, the regime used a farcical process to claim that 93 percent of voters chose to adopt a constitution that permanently enshrines military rule and prevents those with undefined “foreign ties” from holding public office — catch-all provisions that would bar Suu Kyi and democracy activists from seeking office.
Some international observers view next year’s planned elections as an opportunity. But under the circumstances imposed by the military’s constitution, the election will be a sham. We will not sacrifice the democratic principles for which many millions of Burmese have marched, been arrested, been tortured and died to participate in a process that holds no hope whatsoever for bringing freedom to our country.
The demands of the NLD are reasonable. In April we issued another declaration to encourage engagement with the military that called for the release of all political prisoners, a full review of the constitution, reopening of all NLD offices and the right to freely organize. The regime’s answer is the continued jailing of Suu Kyi and 2,000 other activists, massive military offensives against ethnic groups and the enforcement of rules to gag democracy.
How can the international community play a meaningful role? First, officials such as Webb should stop fear-mongering about China. His language about containing China, and working with Burma’s regime to do so, is based on an outdated and unrealistic thesis. Suu Kyi rejected such notions by informing Webb that “we will not deal with anyone with fear and insecurity. We will deal with anyone, China, America, India, equally and friendly. As we can’t choose our neighbors, we understand that we need to have a good relationship with China.” Second, the NLD encourages other countries and international organizations to engage with Burma’s military leaders to persuade them to engage with us and Burma’s ethnic groups. The United States and many other nations have imposed sanctions on Burma. That is their decision and in keeping with their justified solidarity with the democratic values that we all hold so dear. If the regime genuinely engages with the NLD and ethnic representatives, releases political prisoners, ceases attacks against ethnic minorities and takes additional steps to build a true democratic state, these sanctions will be repealed at the right time.
In the meantime, let no one doubt our resolve. The NLD is a reflection of Burmese society. We will not be cowed or coerced into participating in a fatally flawed political process that robs the Burmese people of the freedom for which we struggle. We stand ready to engage, but we are more than willing to continue our struggle for the democratic values that so many have given their lives and their freedom to achieve.
U Win Tin is a member of the Central Executive Committee and a founder of Burma’s National League for Democracy party. He was a political prisoner from 1989 to 2008.
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I thought my readers might enjoy something uplifting on this day.
When I was in the States I saw lots of bumper stickers that said: “9/11: We will not forget.” I’m all for remembering, but I think that there’s a right way and a wrong way to remember.
The book of Deuteronomy is all about remembering. Over and over God commanded the people of Israel not to forget. Among the things that they were to remember were their years of slavery in Egypt. Whenever they are told not to forget the evil that had been done to them it was usually in the context of a social justice command. Take for example Deut. 24:17,18: “Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord you God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.” In other words, “Don’t forget what it’s like to be under someone’s thumb in order to make sure that you never turn around and do the same thing to someone else.”
Living here in the Balkans I’ve seen first-hand the danger of the wrong kind of remembering. Members of every ethnic group have committed enough atrocities against one another that everyone has something terrible to remember; everyone can justify the hatred that his group nurses; everyone can see his people as the victims and the others as the aggessors. Remember when you were a kid and you got into a fight with your sibling and your parents intervened and you and your sibling both said, “But s/he started it!”? As a parent I know how tricky it can be to sort how who really started it and what exactly constitutes “starting it”. Much of the debate among Balkans people seems to me to come down to a deadly, grown-up version of “Who started it?”. Memories are the chips with which this high stakes game is played.
I want to be careful not to be misunderstood here. I’m not trying to suggest that all parties in the recent Balkan wars were equally guilty or that all atrocities were equally atrocious. I certainly don’t want to feed that arrogant American attitude which says, “Those guys have been killing one another for thousands of years. If it’s not one it’s the other. Why should we care?” This kind of statement is not only unbearably smug but also historically inaccurate. The truth is that in the Balkan wars of the 1990s I believe that the Serbs were the primary aggressors, but the point I’m getting at here is that I don’t think that we Americans are willing to admit how much we have in common with them. Both of us have caused a lot of devastation in the name of fighting Islamic fundamentalism — and ultimately fueled its fires.
As September 11 rolls around again, by all means, let’s remember. Let’s remember the destruction, the economic disruption, the national trauma and humiliation, the suffering of thousands who were injured and maimed, and the anguish of tens of thousands who lost family members in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And as we remember let’s repent of the fact that our very first response was to turn around and inflict the very same destruction and death on someone else.
I’ll close with a 9/11 quote — this one from September 11, 1915. It’s by Stanley Frodsham, a Pentecostal pioneer and an early editor of The Weekly Evangel (the forerunner of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.)
When one comes into that higher kingdom and becomes a citizen of the ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), the things that pertain to earth should forever lose their hold, even that natural love for the nation where one happened to be born, and loyalty to the new King should swallow up all other loyalties. …National pride, like every other form of pride, is abomination in the sight of God. And pride of race must be one of the all things that pass away when one becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. . . . When seen from the heavenly viewpoint, how the present conflict is illumined…The policy of our God is plainly declared in the Word, “Peace on earth, good will toward me.” Stanley H. Frodsham, “Our Heavenly Citizenship,” The Weekly Evangel, 11 September 1915, 3, quoted in Shifiting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God by Paul Alexander.
As followers of the Prince of Peace, we must make sure that our remembering is not poisoned by national pride. If it is, we will only perpetrate on others the evil that was done to us.
(this article was posted with permission, the original article can be found at www.kosovacajun.blogspot.com)
As I am writing this post, I am secretly praying that there is someone out there who can relate to this. You see, I have a ritual every Wednesday morning. It’s not a planned ritual, but a ritual nonetheless. I am always in my pajamas, usually in the process of eating breakfast, with my hair uncombed, and looking like I just got out of bed because I really have just gotten out of bed. I am minding my own business preparing to go about my merry day-and then my wife hears the sound of the trash truck. For some reason, I never hear it first. It is always my wife who hears it.
And so I run half-crazed from my living room to the bedroom knocking over things in the process. I always first contemplate putting on my slippers, since they are always by my bed and my bed is closer than the closet, but then I remember that my driveway is nothing but rocks and I tell myself that is not a good idea. I then run to the closet and throw on my sandals and run outside in my pajamas (or boxers depending on the time of the year) and drag the green trash bin to the end of the driveway. I pity the neighbors for having to see this sight. It really is a sorry sight. But it happens every single Wednesday morning like clockwork. Sometimes I make it. Sometimes I don’t.
I’m not sure if there is a spiritual message in this, but if there is one, I’d sure like to know about it. I thought about relating this to the story of the parable of the 10 virgins preparing to meet the bridegroom, but it didn’t seem quite appropriate since the trash truck will be back next week so the opportunity isn’t lost forever. Comparing Jesus to a trash truck also seems a bit odd to me. So I am asking you, my blogging friends to give me suggestions if there are any spiritual principles that can be applied to this story that I could use in a future sermon. I feel it is only good and right to seek to find something good out of this since I am already committing a crime against humanity by forcing my neighbors on a weekly basis to see an image that no human being should ever have to see. Please help. I’m seeking a little redemption here.
I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, David Witt founder of Spirit of Martyrdom Ministries. David worked on staff with Voice of the Martyrs for 10 years, serving the persecuted church, before he launched his own ministry with a focus on reaching Muslims. David still works in close partnership with Voice of the Martyrs. He has traveled to over 40 countries where people suffer daily for their faith.
I recently interviewed David on my blog talk radio show “Deep Thoughts with Aaron D. Taylor.” The interview lasted 15 minutes. You can listen to it at
David is a great man and has a unique approach of ministry to Muslims I think my readers and listeners will find interesting.
Have a great weekend!