This past Wednesday, I shared about a new experiment I’ll be undertaking. During each of the next sixteen weeks, I’ll feature a news article from the developing world. This won’t just be about me sharing bad news or some awful story. Occasionally, I’ll also share about something really cool or awesome. I think it’s important that we share these good stories, because it reminds us that the people living in the developing world are much more than “victims.” These are people like us, made in God’s image, with dreams and hopes and the remarkable capacity to love, be courageous, create and grow.
The goal of my “experiment” is to build awareness and maybe learning something. I’d very much like to see the world as Jesus sees it, with compassion and empathy I want to see myself as part of a larger community. I want to learn to pray for people in other parts of the world. I want to see Jesus increase the size of my heart. By sharing this experiment with you here at Momentary Delight, I also hope we can engage in a conversation and grow in understanding together.
You could almost certainly fill a whole world with all the things I don’t know. There are so many parts of the world about which I’m woefully ignorant. In general, I’m pretty good at recognizing “the real important” stuff, but sometimes “the day to day” doesn’t make it to the top of my list. I cannot help but feel this is a shortcoming, since in the “day to day” of real life there are people who are facing incredible challenges and struggles. These are the people I should know.
One country which has had a difficult road is Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Ruled by their military for almost fifty years, Myanmar is one of the world’s poorest nations. Most westerners probably have at least a vague familiarity with Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently visiting the United States. She had placed under house arrest for fifteen years and was only released after public outcry and international pressure. In 2008 Myanmar was devastated by Cyclone Nargis killing 200,000 and leaving one million homeless. In the critical days following the cyclone the military delayed the UN relief effort, fearing outside influence into their country, and this resulted in even further suffering. Although, the military junta was eventually forced to have elections in 2010, the road to democratization has been hard and the military still has disproportionate control over the country.
All of this is important background to the story I wanted to share this week from the New York Times, written by Thomas Fuller. It’s a story about two remarkable women in Myanmar who are fighting against insurmountable odds. The daughters of farmers, Aye Net and Thwe Thwe Win never graduated primary school. They live in a very rural part of Myanmar. Nothing about them seems remarkable, except what they are doing.
Aye Net and Thwe Thwe Win lived in a farming town called Wethmay. The Myanmar military in conjunction with a large Chinese arms manufacturer and the police have been trying to evict the people of Wethmay from their farms in order to expand the local copper mine. Among those leading the demonstrations have been Aye Net and Thwe Thwe Win. They’ve been thrown in jail and they have been harassed by their own police and military, and yet they’ve refused to back down.
“I said, ‘Now it’s my turn,’ ” said Ms. Thwe Thwe Win, who dropped out of school when she was 12 and spent her childhood foraging for mushrooms and plants in the hills where the copper mine now operates. “I pointed my finger at the governor: ‘You are not a gentleman. Don’t call me again to this kind of discussion.’ ”
I chose this story, because it was a story of heroism, and courage. It tells us how the people of Myanmar have dreams and hopes. They want to live a better life and yet they face crazy odds.
My favorite quote in the Times article comes from Myanmar poet Ant Maung who says of activists Win and Net:
“The struggle made them into iron ladies. . .This is life or death for them — they will defend it at the cost of everything.”
As someone who likes to write, my tendency is to say too much, but in this case, the story speaks for itself. The article tells us about the people of Myanmar and about the challenges they are currently experiencing. It shares about two women, who seeing their people go through terrible hardship and oppression, decide to make a stand. Sometimes we think that we have to be someone important to act and help others. We think that to have influence, we need to have material wealth, political power or physical strength, but this story tells us something very different.
This story should also remind us of why Jesus came.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19