Their stories were strikingly similar: they came to Mae La primarily to study. Education in Burma was really expensive and it was no option for internally displaced people who lived in the jungle. They wanted to study theology and bible and philosophy. They walked for two weeks to one full month to come to Mae La and be “free” to study.
I looked around me. We were sitting in a classroom underneath a lone light bulb dangling from the ceiling that was partially made out of tarp in a refugee camp that had thousands of huts built practically on top of each other and was held together by a rusty barbed wire fence.
“Free?” I heard myself thinking, judging.
They told me stories, then. Their houses and churches and schools and entire villages were burned down by the Burmese military. They watched their family members and best friends tortured, mutilated, and murdered. Gonyouwah described with great detail one technique he remembered the military using: pouring boiling water over the heads of innocent civilians before scalping them.
I swallowed hard and realized my mistake. This refugee camp–what looks like a combination of animal pens and a prison in my busy mind that is trying desperately to make sense of what I’m seeing and hearing–is their freedom.
The picture above is from another post from this fine blog.
BTW give thanks that the generals are giving access for aid to reach their suffering people, and pray that the help needed may actually at least start to reach the cyclone victims in quantities that will make a real difference!