This is Rev. John Maw (Not his real name). He is 78. His wife is Pah Luu (Not her real name). She is 72. They live in an abandoned cement building together with a few hundred others who recently fled their villages.
“We did not want to leave our village,” Rev. John says. “We love our home in the mountains and we have lived in the same village since 1965.”
“But we didn’t have a choice. We had to leave when the army started attacking us and using chemical weapons. It is not good for children and pregnant women when there are chemical weapons in the area. We are very sad that we had to leave our village.”
Rev. John has lived a long, eventful and sad life. He shares:
“From 1958 and many years I was a missionary. I was a missionary to Nagaland in India. After that we moved to our village that we just left. We had nine children together. Four of them died and we have five left now. This is what happened to my children:
In 1964 we had to flee from the army. We fled into the jungle without any food. My daughter died there because she had nothing to eat and she died from malnutrition.
In 1978 another one of my daughters got killed when a bomb exploded next to her.
I lost two of my sons too. Both of them were forced to porter for the Burma Army and they got sick and weak from the hard work and lack of food and rest. They had to porter so many times that they got sick and died. One died in 1977 and the other one died later.
I remember fleeing into the jungle many times. When we flee we have nothing to eat. I remember eating grass sometimes. It was the only thing we could find.”
Rev John and his wife Pah Luu are both sitting on the elevated board in the room they have been given. The room that is going to serve as their home now. They remind me of eagles that I have sometimes seen in cages in zoos. They are prisoners. They want to fly, but their wings have been chopped.
“You look so strong and healthy,” I comment. “We are,” they reply. “The reason we are healthy is that we eat mostly vegetables and very little meat, and we live on the mountain where we get fresh air all the time.” I feel a sadness coming over me as I wonder if they will ever be able to return to their village and if the village is even there any more.
“I cannot express in words how I feel about our government,” sighs Rev. John. “They say they are our government, but they do such horrible things to their people. We suffer because of them. They oppress anybody that does not agree with them. The government we have now may have changed their uniforms, but they have not changed anything on the inside.”
As we walk out from the dimly lit room and into the darkness of the night I can’t shake my feeling of sadness. They are 78 and 72 years old. What kind of government makes old people run away from the homes they have lived in for more than 45 years, forcing them into an abandoned building that has more in common with a prison than a home. What government drops bombs on their own people, killing some, injuring others, and scaring the rest? It is the same government the world is getting ready to do business with, invest in, and commend for it’s good behavior. The world should visit Rev John in his dark and oppressive room.