Myanmar has been beaten down by its military dictatorship for the last 50 years, yet they do not carry themselves as victims. With the recent developments towards democracy, the people were full of hope, ready to exercise this newfound freedom.
On the first meeting of Myanmar’s newly elected parliament, the military struck; imprisoning the elected officials, locking down the country and attempting to break the spirit of the people.
It’s hard to know how you would feel when those who should be protecting you fire indiscriminately into buildings. Or how you would react if they kidnapped your loved ones in the night and return their tortured bodies to you in the morning. Or if they and shot your child while she huddled frightened in your lap.
It’s hard to even comprehend a world in which that happens. Yet my friend who used to live in Myanmar has been receiving texts from his students such as, “Papa, I’m scared”. I have seen the Facebook statuses of friends from the country saying that their house is being fired upon. I think I would not be able to face such vast grief without cloaking it in anger.
I would want to lash out, to hunt down military officers in their homes as they had done to children in mine. In the midst of that imagery, though, I see Jesus. I see him say, “Love your enemies”. I see the marks of that conviction on those pierced hands, dying for the ones who scarred him so. I see him rising from the impossible because this death and sacrifice holds a promise.
God’s way is higher
Nonviolent campaigns are 5 times more likely to succeed in their goals than violent ones. My instinct to return violence with violence reveals that I trust my own power over that of God to protect and avenge me. Yet the earlier statistic reveals that even in the face of such evil, his ways are higher than mine. Turning the other cheek is not just holding to an ideal for the sake of your enemy; it increases your likelihood of preventing future oppression.
Seeing the benefit of obeying God when military forces could enter your home at any time could be difficult, but if the people of Myanmar do so, they may yet achieve freedom. If there are benefits to those who listen to Him, even in such extreme circumstances, I think there are very real benefits to us who obey when we are commanded, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Faced with discomfort, those of us who are removed from the situation can avert our eyes. Yet if we demonstrate the fearlessness of Myanmar’s people in the face of fear, if we hold to God’s commands, there is an opportunity present.
How do we react?
Allowing ourselves to empathise as God has commanded will change us in a way we cannot understand until the change has happened. So I ask that as Christians, we pray for those who are being oppressed in Myanmar the same way we know that Christians there would pray for us.
Opening ourselves to experiencing their grief as if it were our own is terrifying, overwhelming, uncomfortable. Perhaps you have another example of oppression that your heart desires to heal, pray for them.
There is need for your obedience; embracing discomfort is the likely vehicle that God will use to answer your prayers for revival, for change within yourself, closeness with the divine. For what of these things is produced from comfort or contentment?
If you wish to also back this prayer up with action, but don’t know what to do, consider emailing this petition to your local member: https://democracyformyanmar.org/australia/ I know that the Australian petition linked here was created after consulting professionals in diplomatic fields, and inquiries have been made of other professionals in best supporting the people of Myanmar.
All the best in your journey.
Frances Ducommun is from Brisbane Australia, a student of philosophy and artistic endeavors. She thinks she's funny, is constantly covered in cat hair and will substitute sleep with reading if no one keeps an eye on her.