I had the privilege today to give a short chat in a class at Princeton Theological Seminary on the topic of justice and compassion and it’s intersection with the church. The challenge of the church and its leaders is to raise the consciousness of the larger world – including the church – to a calling and purpose towards the reconciliation and restoration of ‘Shalom.’ We have to remind people that there are suffering and injustice in our cities and larger world - because many choose not to believe. We know it’s there but we choose not to believe.
We are competing against the principalities and forces of the world – compounded by the simple issue of human depravity – that prefers and chooses the stories of gossip and entertainment rather than the ways of Mercy, Justice, and Compassion. The church struggles also with the church. We struggle with ourselves and our temptation to build up the Institution, Fame, and Programs of the church rather the elevate the Trinity and the work of the Larger Kingdom.
Amongst many things that we can do, one that is absolutely critical is to put a “Face” to the other – or, to put a “story” to the other. Everyone has a story: The victim, the victimizer, the suffering, the hungry, the homeless, the prostitute, the poor, and the list goes on. On that note, today happens to be National Burma Day. About two years ago, I was crossing a river from Thailand to Burma. I was preaching at a church in a Karen village in Burma. I was playing and laughing with kids in a small village in Burma. The experience was formative because it helped put a “face” and a “story” to the other.
I’d like to share a face and a story with you through these videos. 10 minutes is what you need to view these two videos. My invitation is to simply encourage you to CARE: whatever the cause. whatever location in the world. whatever the issue of compassion or justice.
Care. And as you learn the faces and stories of the other, become an Advocate and share their faces and stories.
I was first introduced to the situation in Burma through a U2 song called, Walk On which was inspired and dedicated to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, ‘leader’ of Burma who’s been under house arrest the majority of the time since 1989. Couple friends at Quest through organizations called World Aid and Free Burma Rangers shed more light in the situation through the personal convictions. A year ago, I actually had an opportunity to travel to Burma [via Thailand and 'illegally' w/o a visa but that's another post]. One of the highlights was preaching at a Karen church in Burma (just across the border from Thailand). I remember a conversation I had with one of the Karen ‘teachers’ in their make shift school system. She was young, intelligent, and a believer of Jesus Christ. She responded with these words in her broken English, “I stay because I believe in Jesus and I must fight for my people.”
The visit to Burma was eye opening and heart convicting. The recent events have embarrassed me as I consider how distant my heart had grown to this and other injustices around the world. Consider the following documented statistics:
The U.S. State Department and two credible NGOs found in 2002 that Burma’s military regime is using rape as a weapon of war.
There are approximately 1,600 political prisoners in Burma, including 38 elected members of parliament.
Millions of Burmese have been pressed into what the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, calls “a modern form of slavery”.
More persons died from landmines in Burma in 2002 than any other country in the world.
Burma is ranked “Not Free” by Freedom House’s international reports.
Burma was ranked the fifth most repressive government in the world by Parade Magazine.The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which passed the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly, found that Burma’s regime is using ethnic cleansing against Burma’s ethnic peoples.
Praying for an end to the violence and a beginning to a new democracy and diplomacy. To learn more about the situation and ways to ACT, visit the following links:
- World Aid
- US campaign for Burma
- Partners World
- Karen Human Rights Group
- Free Burma Rangers
- Free Burma