The Power of Nonviolence
The news this afternoon from Myanmar/Burma is not good. A recent AP story said that
Soldiers clubbed and dragged away activists while firing tear gas and warning shots to break up demonstrations Friday before they could grow, and the government cut Internet access, raising fears that a deadly crackdown was set to intensify.
The government said 10 people have been killed since the violence began earlier this week, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he believed the loss of life in Myanmar was "far greater" than is being reported. Dissident groups have put the number as high as 200, although that number could not be verified.
The world is reacting with outrage. President Bush has toughened sanctions to focus on specific individuals for the first time, including a ban on travel visas. A U.N. special envoy is en route. Many other world leaders have spoken out.
Gene Stoltzfus is a friend who worked in Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 70s, and then became director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a program of Brethren, Mennonite and Friends churches and other affiliated organizations that places teams in high conflict zones to emphasize human rights protection, nonviolent action, and peacemaking campaigns. On his blog, he comments on the religious roots of nonviolence for the Buddhist monks leading the demonstrations against the military junta.
Two groups with countrywide power and influence in modern Burma are now facing each other across potholes in the streets. The military with Chinese-supplied weapons, is determined to retain the grip it has had on the nation since 1962. The Buddhist movement, with an institutional life going back more than 1000 years, is led by monks armed with spiritual disciplines and a commitment to an ethical system that combines practical living with a deep sensitivity to all of creation. The Buddhist way is nonviolence empowered by love, honed by teaching and meditation. However, this does not mean that monks are not tough, persistent, and even militant.
In response to the world wide call of Free Burma groups we have a sign in our window, THE WORLD IS WATCHING, FREE BURMA, with a candle below the sign.