The Role of Holy People
The news about Sitagu Sayadaw, one of the most famous and respectable monks in Myanmar, and his supporters’ visit the prisons in Yangon and Mandalay in August 2010 has been spoken about by the public for months here. It is the first time I have heard such kind of news. Many people have been sharing the video of Sitagu Sayadaw’s visit very willingly and there have been many follow up talks after watching it. Now in Myanmar, preaching by the holy monks has encouraged people to contribute humanitarian assistance to the needy communities.
The relations between the public and the monks are stronger and closer than any other public relationships in Myanmar. I personally witnessed the globally famous monks’ protest in September 2007 which resulted from the people’s voices worrying about unaffordable commodity prices. Thousands of monks and many nuns were marching and praying for people, an act which was against the junta’s law. Hundreds of non- Buddhists joined the Buddhist monks leading the campaign. The demonstration became so famous that the junta received international pressure asking for democracy in Myanmar. When many monasteries were approached by the military trucks sent to arrest the monks, any people nearby, alerted by the signal sounds, by hitting the kitchen pots marched to the monasteries. I was there too and happily witnessed the trucks driving away. We could stop them from trying to arrest the monks inside.
Although it was a great sadness that many protesters were arrested in demonstration, it was such a wonderful show of unity among the multi religious communities for the truth. It was lovely to hear from Sitagu Sayadaw that he was working together with a Baptist Father to build a free eye hospital in Chin state where
most of the people are Christians and about 90 percent of the patients are Christian .He also said he would collaborate with other religious leaders for providing humanitarian assistance to needy communities.
Recently in Myanmar, participation in humanitarian works by the monks and nuns has been dramatically rising. Most assistance has been provided to orphans and poor children for their continuous education for their better future. Among them, Sitagu Sayadaw has been incredibly remarkable, contributing a great deal of humanitarian aid, not for missionary purposes, but just for helping without regard to any religion or race. He has been building free eye specialist hospitals in every state and division in Myanmar. During the big cyclone relief projects in 2008, he and his supporters went to the most difficult-to-reach villages to provide emergency aid. He also helped a Belgium photographer who was not allowed to go to the relief camps. He took him in one of his delivery trucks and let him stay among the cyclone victims in a camp so the photographer would have a great chance for taking interesting photos which he then made into a book that was so popular that he needed to publish a second edition As he had intended to use the money for the victims, the photographer came back to Myanmar two times, once with a huge donation to build schools and the next time to visit those schools. If he had not seen that monk or if the monk had not taken the risk to help him, the people would have missed the opportunity to receive his big assistance. This is a right and brave decision from the monk and the photographer from another corner of the world.
S.N. Goenkanji, a famous world Vipassana teacher, beautifully noted at the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations in 2000 that religion is not for dividing people. It is for uniting people to serve humanity.This thought has inspired me through my whole life. If all the holy people who take key roles in every religion follow this way, there will not be any sorrow in the world, which has witnessed violent attacks that lead to death and huge suffering. All holy Lords guide us to love all and all religious leaders give faith to their lords. Then, why is it not possible for them to lead in loving all? If the holy people played this noble role, the world would be like one family filled with love and care.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.