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In Burma, a woman's inner freedom, unbroken by fear

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi reveals in a BBC lecture the source of her spiritual strength in surviving as an isolated dissident and as a champion of democracy.

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Many a visitor to Burma (Myanmar) who sees the headquarters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party calls it a “cowshed.” The ramshackle structure is hardly a symbol of her great ability to keep alive the people’s hopes for democracy in a country run by despots.

So where does Ms. Suu Kyi’s strength lie in leading a dissident movement despite being isolated for 15 years, either in prison or under house arrest?

The answer can be found in a talk recorded in secret for the BBC’s “Reith Lectures,” just months after her release. The tapes were smuggled out of Burma for broadcast this week and next (click here).

Suu Kyi’s insights about her inner strength build on the works and writings of previous freedom fighters, such as Vaclav Havel. But they are unique to her experience as the daughter of modern Burma’s founder, someone raised in a Christian school but who lives in a Buddhist country that has been in simmering revolution since 1988.

These lectures could not be better timed to inspire the faltering Arab Spring – as well as the Burmese.

She says a basic human right is freedom from fear, something that Arabs learned quickly after Tunisia’s revolution in January. For her, living under a repressive regime, “fear is the first adversary we have to get past when we set out to battle for freedom, and often it is the one that remains until the very end.”

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