I have a hero. Her name is Marci. She is very pregnant, has a little girl who is a toddler and a Karen husband. She and her small family live on very little, and their life mission is to help and serve the people of Burma. Here are some thoughts I received from her recently.
While on the latest trip in amongst the internally displaced people, everyone was talking about the peace negotiations. Some seemed hopeful, many seemed apparently indifferent–despondent that things could ever change. A few people were actually fearful.
Fearful of peace? And yet as we talked, their view of the future came into view. “What if our leaders sign that agreement, take steps in good faith and then are sold out? What if all the basic human rights that we’ve been trying to defend for 63 years are taken by force? What if we let down our guard, and they sweep into our villages, take over leadership and take away our dignity?” These are the real concerns of every day villagers. They live a harsh existence, carrying in their daily water on their backs. Their firewood on their backs. Their children on their backs over steep mountain trails. These steep mountains that they slash and burn farm, and who’s yield is never enough to fill their bellies. And yet they still smile, they still celebrate Christmas and New Years with abandon. They are happy because they are free.
Don’t get me wrong, every person you ask knows someone who was killed by the Burma Army. Every single person has a relative shot or stabbed–if not themselves directly. But they have a happiness that comes out of living life in community, helping each other and living with justice.
“The Karen are truthful, but the Burman heart is crooked”. I’ve heard that Karen saying so many times. It’s maybe a bit ethnocentric and a generalization–but there’s some truth in the comparison of cultures. The Burmese government has created a culture where the ruthless and crooked succeed while and the truthful are imprisoned. Will “peace” bring a better life, or other forms of oppression?
Warming by the fire and listening to the BBC shortwave radio, we heard that over 600 prisoners were released. This included some friends of my host that night who’d been arrested for carrying medicine. Many positive steps are happening in Burma. But at the same time, the military is trucking in ammunition and supplies, and beefing up troop presence in their outposts. They continue to shell, shoot and terrorize in Kachin State and other areas.
We prayed together with villagers during the peace talks, and the preliminary steps are cautiously encouraging. But what we truly want–what we cannot forget–is justice. Peace can come in a totalitarian regime. What we want is more than peace alone. Peace with justice means that the Karen can stay on their grandfather’s land, that they can get access to healthcare and education. That they can have passports, freedom of religion and freedom to speak out. That they have fair representation in court and prosecution for human rights abuses.
Please stand with us in prayer, stand with the villagers in Burma who are just barely daring to hope. We want to see John 10:10 kind of life in Burma. Life abundant.