The monks of Myanmar

The Christian Science Monitor puts an ongoing conflict in Myanmar (Burma) into a global and historical perspective.

Revered for self-sacrifice, Buddhist monks in Burma are standing up to the guns of a selfish regime. But these holy men in saffron robes are serving more than a people's desire for freedom. The protests also serve as a reminder of religion's historic role in shaping the kind of moral concern for others that is the root of democracy.

Democracy, after all, is simply the best way to bestow legitimacy on the few to rule the many for the care of all. In Burma (also known as Myanmar), any legitimacy of the military to govern ended long ago. Decades of repression, rather than caring, have left poverty and fear.

Last month, when the junta was forced by its bungling to double fuel prices, the people's economic suffering was intimately observed by the monks, who daily interact with the faithful in acts of humility and kindness. Their natural legitimacy has propelled them to lead nonviolent demonstrations aimed at withdrawing support from the regime and to demand democracy. Worldwide, religious leaders from the Dalai Lama to South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu have offered moral support.

Events in Burma are a model, repeated throughout history, of religious movements helping overthrow colonial powers and dictators. Protestant clergy helped spark the American Revolution, with one British commander complaining that "sedition flows copiously from the pulpits." The Vatican II changes of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s helped followers in many countries stand up to tyranny. Catholic nuns and priests were on the front line of a "people power" revolution in the Philippines that overthrew a dictator in 1986. Pope John Paul II helped his native Poland lead the way to free Eastern Europe of communism. Soviet dissidents were spiritually nurtured by a few Russian Orthodox priests, helping bring about the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. In Indonesia, a 30-million-strong Islamic group called Nahdlatul Ulama gave moral support for the 1998 overthrow of dictator Suharto.

The whole thing is here.

The Times UK notes that this is not the first time the estimated 500,000 monks have stood up for their homeland in this piece.

Read more about the conflict, and in particular Monday's protests, here.

Comments (1)

There is some debate about whether it is respectftul to the oppressed to call the country Myanmar.
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/its-burma-to-you-pal/?hp

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space