Cry Tears for Burma

Written by Dr. Anna May Say pa
May 20, 2008

Dr. Anna May Say pa is a well known church leader and feminist theologian in Asia. 

Once, this was Thabyekyaing village, a quiet coastal village in Labutta township, Ayeyawaddy Division.

Once, the laughter of children filled the air as they played football or toke-si-do in the fields and yards.

Once, men went out on fishing boats or worked in the fields. Women planted rice, fetched water and firewood and kitchen fires burnt brightly.

Once, on Sunday mornings, the church bell would ring and people would gather to sing, praise and worship god and listen to the pastor, Rev.

Maung Bay's or his son, Pastor Klo Htoo's sermons.

Once, on Lenten days the monastery gong would sound and the Buddhists would go to hear the Sayadaw's sermons while observing a fast.

Once, the village was shady with fruit trees, the gardens with vegetables and the fields green with rice plants or yellow during harvest time.

Now, there is an eerie silence over what once was Thabye Gyaung. The sound of laughter, song and raucous shouting is stilled. The trees, the fields, the houses, school, church, monastery, clinic are no more.

Now, what remains is death and destruction, bloated bodies, shattered lives.

On the night of May 2, the cyclone Nargis with gale force winds, rain and sea water that rose to 17 feet and higher destroyed the village and all the life that had made up that village.

The pastor, Thra Maung Bay, MIT (Burma Divinity School Certificate) Class of 1969 died in that disaster. Once, in 1992 thra Maung Bay had faced flood waters, that time of a political nature in what is known as Bogalay Ayay-Akin (Bogalay Affair). Pro-democracy forces had infiltrated the delta region from across the border. Thra Maung Bay was interrogated, tortured and sent to prison. But once released, he went back to his village and people and ministered to them as best he could in spite of his broken health. His son, Saw Klo Htoo, following the steps of his father went to seminary, Karen Baptist Theological Seminary for his Bachelor of Theology and after graduation became a pastor. But on that fateful night, Pastor Saw Klo Htoo also died, never fulfilling his dream of studying at MIT. Mrs. Maung Bay, a KBTS graduate, survived as she was visiting relatives in Rangoon at that time. Now, she is alone, without family, home and village.

This family's, this village's, tragedy is replicated in the areas struck by Nargis Cyclone, Haingyi Island, Labutta, Bogalay, Daydaye, Pyapon, Mawlamyinegyun and Rangoon and nearby towns. The latest govt.

figure of deaths (12 May '08) is 85,000  the final figure will be higher. Relief work is going on but at a slow rate. Relief goods are accepted but not personnel with expertise. Some camps are experiencing medical problems. Some peop0le still in isolated pockets are without food and water. In Bassein, there are over 2000 survivors in Ko Tha Byu Camp with more arriving every day.

We have received reports of over 39 villages totally destroyed in Bassein area alone and 13 pastors dead. There has been destruction of churches, and extensive damage to houses and a seminary.

The Rangoon streets are blocked with fallen trees and electric posts.

Water and electricity is a problem. Classes have been suspended until further notice. Summer School closed for a few days but have re-started. Classes started today but some students from Bassein area are too busy with relief works to attend.

You will want to know how to respond to this disaster. We certainly need your prayers. The people also need aid to recover from destruction of this magnitude.

Cry for bleeding, suffering Burma – she is so small, her people struggling so long for survival. It seems as if not only political forces but God herself/himself is determined to teach us some sensible lessons. Sermons nowadays sound like platitudes. Our land and our people are being put through the wringer, squeezed dry till there is no more life juice left. Cry with us, cry for us in solidarity in our despair.

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