Unarmed civilians are being arrested, tortured, or summarily shot and killed. Children are being slapped, teenagers beaten with batons, and the elderly maimed with rubber bullets. People have become police punch-bags, kicked into lifelessness. A mother weeps over her son, who has a hole in his head. A father sits and stares at the body of his only daughter. And the children scream, “When will mummy and daddy be back?” But they won’t be coming back. They’re lying in the gutter, their corpses infested with flies.
How long, O Lord? How Long?
“Please kill me. I don’t want to see people being killed,” cried Sister Ann Roza, as she knelt before the police, pleading with them to show mercy. She was prepared to die; to sacrifice her life so that others may live. She explained:
On Sunday, I was at the clinic. I was giving treatment on that day as the other clinics were closed. I saw groups of people marching by. They were protesting. Suddenly I saw police, military and water cannon following the protesters. Then they opened fire and started beating the protesters. I was shocked and I thought today is the day I will die. I decided to die.
I was asking and begging them not to do it and I told them the protesters didn’t commit any [crime]. I was crying like a mad person. I was like a mother hen protecting the chicks.I was running towards where they were beating the protesters. It was happening in front of this clinic. It was like a war. I thought it would be better that I die instead of lots of people.
I was crying out loud. My throat was in pain, too. My intention was to help people escape and be free to protest and to stop the security forces. I asked them not to continue arresting the people. I was begging them. At that time I was not afraid. If I had been scared and run away, everyone would be in trouble. I was not afraid at all. I was thinking of the girl from Naypyitaw and the one from Mandalay. I was thinking of all the fallen souls from the country. I was worried what was going to happen to the people of Myitkyina.
When they reached the Banyan tree, I was calling them [the authorities] and telling them: ‘Please kill me. I don’t want to see people being killed.’ I was crying out loud and they stopped for a while.
One came to me and said: ‘Sister, don’t worry so much, we are not going to shoot them.’
But I told him: ‘They can also be killed with other weapons. Don’t shoot them. They are just protesters.’
In my mind I didn’t believe that they were not going to shoot them, as in many places I’ve seen they have shot people dead. I brought [a protestor] to the clinic and gave him treatment. The police almost captured another one as he had fallen down. I stopped the police and asked them not to continue. That’s why the police didn’t. Otherwise, they would have arrested him and dragged him from there.
I feel like they [the military] are not the guardians of the people as you have seen what’s happening to the people. People are not safe and there are brutal night arrests. I felt really sad when I saw the video of a mother of a young one crying next to a dead body. I also saw an ambulance was destroyed and medics were beaten with a gun. They are supposed to protect us but our people have to defend themselves. It’s not safe. They [the security forces] arrest and beat those who they don’t like. They kill them. There’s no one to protect Myanmar people. People have to defend themselves and help each other.
Sister Ann Roza Nu Tawng was prepared to lay down her life to bear true and faithful witness to the world. She wasn’t confusing religious sanctity with political ideology. She wasn’t imagining the candles that will be lit around her shrine of beatification in centuries to come: her whole being was absorbed with human suffering, human compassion and human freedom. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’
Some Christians employ violence to secure peace, and there is undoubtedly a place for that in a ‘Just War’ tradition going all the way back to St Augustine. And yet violence begets violence, and the casualties are invariably peace and so often justice. A Myanmar nun has no desire for temporal power or influence, and Sister Ann Roza had no desire even to save her own skin. And in that saintly kenosis is the very incarnation of Jesus, who gave himself up to death on a cross, telling an alternative story of a different power and influence, witnessing to the world of the New Testament’s teaching: ‘..all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.‘
A Myanmar nun knelt down in a war zone and pleaded for the lives of unarmed civilians, and the police stopped and stood, and the story has circled the world. While the Church is so massively faithless, a solitary nun prefigures the peaceable kingdom of God in a world wracked by violence, terror and suffering. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.‘