by Evelyn Hanneman
August 12, 2009
Since 1996, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America has supported Burmese Baptists as they worked for peace in their war-torn country. Funding for mediation initiatives, conflict transformation trainings, and the establishment of the Shalom Foundation, a church-based peace center has helped Burmese Baptists develop the capacity for nonviolent peacemaking. Now these Baptist peacemakers need our assistance once again.
On August 11, Myanmar's military junta extended Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's imprisonment by 18 months after finding her guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest. Critics of Myanmar's military regime condemned the outcome of the 3-month sham trial, calling it a pretext to keep Suu Kyi out of the running during next year's presidential elections.
The junta — which currently detains more than 2,100 political prisoners — commuted Suu Kyi's sentence from three years hard labor in prison to an 18-month extension to her house arrest in the hopes that the international community will view the reduced sentence as an act of leniency. But many, including BPFNA, believe Suu Kyi should have never been imprisoned in the first place. Suu Kyi's deplorable imprisonment has been denounced by everyone from heads of state worldwide to nine of Suu Kyi's fellow Nobel laureates.
Through the auspices of Amnesty International USA, the BPFNA invites members and friends to join the court of world opinion in condemning Ang San Suu Kyi's sham trial.
The odds of success may seem unfavorable in such an appeal to authoritarian rulers, but the recent release of two US journalists from North Korea is proof that even totalitarian regimes are vulnerable to relentless international pressure. The fact that Myanmar's government reduced Suu Kyi's sentence is also a sign that the military regime is susceptible to the world community's criticisms. In a separate case last year, Ma Khin Khin Leh, another prisoner of conscience in Myanmar, obtained her release after activists sent tens of thousands of letters to Myanmar's leaders on her behalf.
Join us today in calling for Ang San Suu Kyi's immediate release.