Today, men of peace have met war. After a week of peaceful democratic protests by 50,000 Buddhist monks and civilians, the Burmese military has opened fire and killed eight demonstrators and a Japanese journalist. Burmese monks, revered in their society as holy men, have been resisting military dictatorship in the Southeast Asian nation. Despite their nonviolence and deep beliefs in pacifism, the government now believes that the monks are threatening enough to be put down with bloodshed.
If there is a lesson that we can learn from the events unfolding in Asia, it is that peaceful and conscientious defiance of injustice can be wildly powerful. Asia has seen armed rebellions in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and throughout the Middle East over the past year, and none of these would-be revolutions have won the support of the masses. For all of their flamed rhetoric and militant strikes against symbols of authority, paramilitary and terrorist organizations are hated by most of the people they claim to fight for. For this reason alone, they are too weak to accomplish their goals. The monks, however, have energized Burma’s population. Without raising even a single finger in violence against the government, these holy men have been joined in their marches by tens of thousands of ordinary Burmese people. In a country with an extensive secret police force and a large army, marches of this size are unheard of. Why is it that Burma is now in the throes of a revolution that could well restore democracy?
The truest revolutions in this world are not revolutions of death and violence. The French, Russian, Nazi, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions were all marked with heavy bloodshed and deep human suffering, carried out in the name of “the greater good.” Within only a few years, however, each new regime had decayed. The best became corrupt and ineffective. The worst became butchers of humanity. Rather than freeing the people from the old bonds of tyranny and corruption, new bonds were forged to perpetuate the slavery of society.
The truest revolutions in this world are revolutions of life and peace. The Indian, Civil Rights, and South African revolutions were not won at the tip of the sword. Rather, people of conscience stood together and fought for the inherent dignity of every human. By appealing to the moral senses of the masses and urging a future based on peace and coexistence, these revolutions were radically democratic, liberating, and successful. No society that has experienced a truly moral revolution in the last century has come to regret it.
Burma’s monks are now standing, marching, chanting, and praying for a new revolution of faith. They live in peace and, like most peaceful people, are meeting violence from the oppressors truly afraid of them. The fear of the junta is clear in every hand it lays on a monk. It is clear in every jail cell slammed to lock in a peaceful protestor. It is clear in every gunshot fired at a man kneeling in the street to pray for an end to human suffering. The military rulers of Burma are right to be afraid of the righteous: the moral force of a nation on fire with peace and love will shatter the ice of tyranny thoroughly and completely. The criminal regime has no weapon that can pierce the soul of a person with convictions, and no force that can subdue nonviolence.
A peaceful and democratic revolution is taking place in Asia today. The saffron robes of the monks are red like the fire of compassion consuming their souls. By God’s grace, people of peace may bring a true revolution to Burma in the coming weeks. As the people see the crimes committed by the government against the holiest of people, their hearts will be moved to conviction in a revolution. By laying their lives on the line for the Burmese people, the monks are laying the foundation for a new peace unlike anything Burma has seen before.
Please keep the monks in your thoughts and prayers. Show them that the world stands with them in their struggle for justice and humanity.