Well here I am in Myanmar; a beautiful country full of temples, pagodas, a despotic military regime and a whole lot of ancient history and culture on show for the few tourists that are increasingly coming on holiday to this golden land… Here there has been a centuries-long bloody battle for peace and democracy that still continues pockets of the country today. Combine that with a drive by the government to open the country to tourism and trade, with a strong refusal by the local people here to discuss anything that might incriminate them to the regime and you find yourself tiptoeing on eggshells in one hell of a country with a population of extremely kind, gentle and gracious people.
I have dreamed of coming to this place for several years now and how fitting that it should be with work rather than as a tourist… The Mothers’ Union in Myanmar is a phenomenally strong organisation here despite the fact that Christians make up a tiny percentage of the demographic of religions (around 4% I believe, to Buddhism’s 80-something%) and Anglicans an even smaller minority with just 67,000 members of the Church here (compared to a population of 60,000,000).
Myanmar happens to be home to one of my idols, as loved by millions across the globe; Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi, The Lady. Her story is incredible, and to visit this place that has been shut off to many for so long and glimpse even just a tiny bit of Myanmar’s history and the people’s story – well that is just an enormous privilege.
The news has been filled with stories lately of how this country is opening up, and that tourists are increasingly drawn to this place which is home to many holy Buddhist shrines and sites worthy of ‘wonders of the world’ status. And it’s true! While in Yangon we haven’t seen so much, on the road up to Mandalay and beyond there is a definite presence of tourists and what is most striking about this place is how safe it is. There aren’t many places I would feel comfortable and safe walking around as a complete foreigner, but Myanmar is one of them!
Well I will start writing up some of our experiences so far on this incredible (but all-too-short) visit to Myanmar, but I will endeavour to change some names and places to protect the work of Mothers’ Union in Myanmar. They are sensitive about the information they broadcast since the militant Buddhist hardliners (I always found it hard to believe that such a group could exist, but they do) can create big problems for them. In the meantime I had hoped to upload some of the photos but the connection just won’t cope…