Statement on Burma

The European Cultural Parliament gathered in Sibiu/Romania for it’s 6th
session, today endorsed unanimously the following statement by it’s member, Ms.
Barbara Hendricks:

From Little Rock to Rangoon

In September 1957 I was
8 years old and living in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Last week I followed the
celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the desegregation of Central High
School in Little Rock Arkansas.  Nine courageous teenagers who became known
as “the Little Rock Nine” began the process of racial integration of the schools
in America. On September 4, Governor Orval Fabius sent in the Arkansas
National Guard to stop these high school students from enrolling in the all
white Central High School in defiance of a Supreme Court decision. href="#Part 1">(1) Like the whole world, I was shocked by the photos
depicting the hatred of the young white students toward these brave children.
President Eisenhower sent in the US military to maintain order and to protect
the black students.

I relived this frightening and revelatory event at the same time as I was
witnessing courageous monks and ordinary Burmese marching for freedom in Burma,
begging for our support. I listened for a response from the International
Community and since the General Assembly of the UN was taking place in New York
City, I thought that the timing was perfect for a serious response. Yet again,
the Security Council  showed it’s uselessness. A scream of indignation
stuck in my throat every time I heard yet another Head of State or Foreign
Minister say the right words of support without showing the necessary will to do
the right actions. And during this time the Military Junta in Burma had started
to crackdown on the demonstrators with it usual tactics.

In 1999 with the aid of a clever ambassador I was able to meet for a few
hours in secret with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest. She asked me
if I thought that she and her people could use the example of Martin Luther King
and the Civil Rights movement to fight for justice. The Civil Rights Movement
took form in the churches of the south where Blacks were free to attend even
when their right to assemble elsewhere were denied. Buddhists do not
assemble on a regular basis and without the possibility to have contact with the
people and to get her message out, I thought that organising the masses in the
same way would be extremely difficult. However, today the monks have taken the
lead in the rebellion. Maybe she was right.

We have no means of knowing how many have already been killed and injured,
we must not abandon Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people. We need action
now. How many times can we watch and do nothing. Where is the Security Council,
where is Europe? Where have our convictions to defend Human Rights gone? Will we
continue to watch the revolt and perhaps the massacre of a people that have
suffered enough without putting a stop to it? As in Budapest in 56, Prague
in 68, the Soweto Uprising in 76, or Tiananmen in 89?

The American and European neo conservatives did not hesitate to support
sending troops to Iraq to fight an illegal war. Certain voices even speak today,
irresponsibly of war with Iran but are content with declarations of support for
the suffering people of Burma. Maybe we should drop our hypocrisy and just say,
“We do not want to jeopardize our oil and commercial interests”. But do not
pretend that our goal is to defend democracy and freedom.

Eisenhower was not pro integration but he made a courageous decision that
changed the course of American history and the bell tolling for justice can be
heard from Little Rock to Rangoon. Free democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi,
and all other political prisoners! A true democracy not imposed from outside but
for which the people of Burma have suffered and died must be restored.

Barbara Hendricks
President Barbara Hendricks Foundation
for Peace and Reconciliation

(1.) On May 17, 1954, the United
States Supreme Court announced its decision that “separate educational
facilities are inherently unequal”. The decision effectively denied the legal
basis for segregation in Kansas and 20 other states with segregated classrooms
and would forever change race relations in the United States.


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