I went to Rangoon. The first meeting I had was with the Archbishop of the Catholic church. I met a man who I now respect deeply.
The Archbishop met me with a big smile at the entrance of his compound. There was little that reminded me of an Archbishop. He held my hand and invited me into his office.
Getting to him hadn’t been as easy as I thought. St. Paul’s the taxi driver knew, but St. Mary’s Cathedral? We drove around in circles for a while and suddenly we knew where we were. We stopped in front of the cathedral and two cute men came and talked to us. One jumped into the taxi with me and showed us the rest of the way. Like an oasis in a desert of concrete and dust was the Catholic compound—full of priests and green plants.
We sat in the office drinking coffee. “Yes, of course I know her,” said the Archbishop when I asked about the Lady. “I have met her many times. She has had meetings with me here in this office several times, and she says that one time she wants to join us when we have supper here together. But I worry about her. Everywhere she goes, crowds follow her. Hundreds of thousands gather to hear her speak. I am just worried that something is going to happen to her on one of these rallies. She is so popular and she is very strong, but what would NLD be without her? If something was to happen to her, is the NLD strong enough to sustain their current popularity? That is what I am wondering.”
He looked relaxed and at ease. “I don’t ever talk about politics and the government leaves me alone,” he says. “I can talk about social issues and how to develop the country, but I don’t talk about politics. So even if I have friends that are very outspoken about the government they don’t hustle me. Even when ASSK’s son came and slept here they did not hustle us.”
We talked about the work his organization does around the country and about his life as a priest and later a bishop. He wanted to know about our work too.
“You know, I worry about all the NGOs that will be flooding into our country,” he said. “I am not so sure that we need them all and that they will only benefit our people.” When I asked him about what he thought we should do, he replied that we need to be patient.
“There may be good and lasting changes. But it is too early to tell for sure. You know the army is still in control and is led by Than Shwe. In the constitution it says that if the army thinks there is danger, they can take control. It doesn’t say anything about what that danger should be. It is up to them to decide. There are many laws like this in our country that need to be changed before we know for sure that there are real changes.”
“One thing our people will need is training in the real meaning of all the fancy words they talk about right now. They say they want democracy, but they don’t really know what it is. We have not had democracy since 1962, so how are they supposed to know? They need to learn the true meaning of freedom, justice, human rights, peace and democracy. They think democracy is doing what you want to do. But real democracy is doing what is right. We need to teach them what is right.
Our talk was coming to an end. I signed one of my books for him and showed him some photos of my family. Then he got me a ride and we said goodbye.