Updated: March 11, 2021 9:00:00 am
Around the world and across time, courage looks the same. Details may vary: On June 5, 1989, in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, it looked like a man clad in black trousers and white shirt, a shopping bag in each hand, facing down the column of Type 59 tanks rumbling down the street. On July 9, 2016, in Baton Rouge, USA, it was a young black woman, in a flowing, printed dress, facing down policemen in full riot gear during a Black Lives Matter protest. And earlier this week, in Myitkyina, Myanmar, courage wore a nun’s habit, as she knelt before heavily-armed policemen and begged them to shoot her instead of the pro-democracy protestors behind her.
That image of Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng is only the latest symbol of courage and defiance to emerge from the pro-democracy protests in Myanmar. Last week, the viral image of Burmese resistance against the coup d’état was that of Kyal Sin, a 19-year-old woman also known as Angel, who was protesting on the streets of Mandalay wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Everything will be OK”. Everything was not OK. Sin was shot in the head and killed by security forces. The nun’s pleadings were disregarded and protestors were fired upon. The pushback against the suspension of democracy continues, as does the use of brute force by Myanmar’s junta regime.
Since the coup on February 1, amid the photos and videos from the protests that have streamed out of Myanmar, when images like that of Sin and Sister Ann Rose arrive, they spotlight the individual and her suffering. They bring home the full weight of everything that is being witnessed and endured. They also become immediate and forceful reminders that in the face of violence, especially from the state, ordinary people can and will stand up — for peace, mercy, compassion and their right to life and liberty — no matter the cost.
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