3 quotes from Aung San Suu Kyi that will ruin you for the ordinary

I am scribbling these notes on a scrap of paper, seated in a dingy little Burmese café in Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar. My heart is full.

Though many hurdles remain, there is a new sense of hope that change could come to a nation that has struggled for decades to be free of the iron fist. If all goes well, this will be the first time since 1962 that a military regime does not control the Burmese government.

When breakthroughs like this come, all who hope for change in this world of violence are spurred on.

Last night my Burmese friend smiled when I asked him about Sunday’s election. “Our mother has come home,” he beamed. 

For as long as I have pursued justice and the Kingdom of God, I have heard the name of “the Lady,” Aung San Suu Kyi. Like many of those who have most deeply impacted the world, she has suffered. A political prisoner, she was held under house arrest for 15 years. She was separated from her children and her husband who died of cancer in 1999. Now, finally Aung San Suu Kyi has led her party to victory.

Suu Kyi’s story spurs me to reflect on our response to the violence and terrorism facing the world today. And her words have challenged me over the years to pursue justice, grace and love in more profound and costly ways.

At this historic moment where Myanmar is on the cusp of seeing major change, it seems good to reflect on some of her words. So, here are 3 challenging thoughts from Aung San Suu Kyi that will spur you towards justice:

On Fear and what we allow it to stop us doing…

One of her most famous speeches was Freedom From Fear, which began:

It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.

Fear is a theme she was to return to often.

Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure.

A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity.
— Aung San Suu Kyi

Though most of us do not live under the iron fist of a military regime, we still give fear an outsized role in our lives. We have no need to fear torture, death or imprisonment, yet we allow fear of suffering in other smaller ways to stop us from pursuing the Kingdom of God.

Knowing this, Aung San Suu Kyi says, “You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.”

Perfect love casts out fear. Even those tiny acts of beauty, goodness and justice which others write off as insignificant, silly or futile, are blows against a massive brick wall of oppression. Aung San Suu Kyi reminds us that lighting even the tiniest flicker of candlelight in the darkness is worthwhile.

On Freedom and how we use it…

The fact is, we have the kind of freedom to fight for justice that Aung San Suu Kyi has rarely known. And so she challenges us, 

Use your liberty to promote ours.
— Aung San Suu Kyi

The political prisoner, the trafficked girl, the maligned asylum seeker – none have the kind of freedom to make even a simple phone call, send an email, attend a rally or speak out and agitate that you and I have.

And what do we do with that freedom? Play Candy Crush. Read about Kim Kardashian’s butt. It sounds pathetic because it truly is pathetic. We allow those moments of freedom to flow through our fingers like grains of sand, never closing our fist on that sand and flinging it in the bully’s eyes.

Use your freedom to promote ours. This is the cry of the oppressed. This is the challenge found in Scripture, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves." (Proverbs 31:8).

How will you respond?

On Hope and how far it gets us….

A guard walks past a huge poster of Aung San Suu Kyi (source: CNN)

A guard walks past a huge poster of Aung San Suu Kyi (source: CNN)

I don’t believe in people just hoping. We work for what we want. I always say that one has no right to hope without endeavour, so we work to try and bring about the situation that is necessary for the country, and we are confident that we will get to the negotiation table at one time or another.
— Aung San Suu Kyi

Someone else put it like this: “Faith, without works, is dead.”  (James 2:17)

Too often mere words, tweets or Facebook posts – slacktivism - are the extent of our work for freedom. But words, or even sincere beliefs, are meaningless if not backed by action.

Hope without hard work, bears zero fruit. So, what is God stirring within you today? What situation of injustice lights the fire in your heart?

What is one concrete action you can take in the direction of justice and freedom?

I will close with more words from Aung San Suu Kyi. She is not a saint. She is merely a flawed human being who has been able to see meaning in her suffering. And perhaps that’s why she says...

Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men and women are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society.
— Aung San Suu Kyi