It looks highly unlikely that the intransigence and persistent discrimination of the military regime will soften soon. This would require wholesale replacement of generals with those leaders exhibiting socialised power, meaning they can restrain their egotistical behaviours.
In social psychology there is growing support for the development of responsible leadership which can be found in many of the world’sspiritual traditions, individuals animated by a higher purpose and embracingpower in the context of conscience, good purpose, love, awareness and service.
I have taught,coached and trained seven successive cohorts of students at a Bible college in Yangon. Each year a dozen or more graduates – along with 100s more from othersimilar colleges – return to their villages as community leaders to work in hospitals,schools, business and churches. On each visit, I have also interviewed many inspirational millennials. Young people like Kamaylar and HsarDoe Doh in rural Karenni State, Dr Sasa bringing medical know-how to the Chin State and Swe Swe (one of my PhD students from Birkbeck in London) who runs a management training centre in Yangon.
It would be tempting to dismiss these as isolated cases of self-sacrifice and dedication which have little purchase against the monolithic problems facing Myanmar. Yet I find myself disarmed by the courage of these Burmese nationals, the same age as our daughters. Their particular projects target a variety of needs in very different rural areas of Myanmar: education and training, mine-risk instruction, community health care, ecology and legal protection.
All refer to the importance of early experiences, in many cases harrowing, and the influenceof family members in forging their Christian or Buddhist values. All had the opportunity to receive tertiary education outside their country, which proved a significant springboard. And perhaps most poignantly, all are operating outside the myopic bubble of central government at Naypyidaw by choosing toreturn to their home communities to pass on their experience and invest these skills for the next generation. For much needed improvement in war-torn Myanmar, it is perhaps on these grass-roots activists that we should pin ourhopes.
In this is intimate account called Whispers of Hope, I tell the story of Burma past and present. Sometimes gentle and often raw, a Burmese family and other Burmese nationals give their eyewitness version of events spanning the twentieth century up to the present day. Their quintessential English names belie the colonial influence and their Anglo-Burmese roots.
From my outsider perspective, seven reasons come to mind…
"In those seven days the Burmese cast a spell over me, winding themselves into my heart, and leaving an ache, a gnawing hunger."