Peace Is Relative

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word peace I think of something desired and very positive. I wish peace for everyone living within this world. How ironic then that an entity with peace in the title is instrumental in perpetrating gross human rights violations.

I’m writing about the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar (Burma). This is the official name of the country’s military regime that’s been in power for over two decades. The SPDC is responsible for murdering political dissidents, torture, restricting the freedom to worship as one sees fit, stealing property, and countless other abuses.

No, none of this is new news. The SPDC has been doing this since they took power. For a while it was even trendy in parts of the Western world to talk about the atrocities in Burma and protest it. I don’t hear much about Burma these days, but the abuses are no less real, no less severe.

Human Rights Watch issued a report last month about the SPDC’s abuses of the Chin. The Chin live in the western part of Burma along the border with India. Many Chin are mired in poverty, forced to work in low-wage (or no-wage) jobs. It is not unusual for farmers to be forced to work the land for the benefit of the government, while they struggle to feed themselves.

Sadly, good times are often out of the reach for Chin who manage to flee to India. In India’s Mizoram State, where approximately 100,000 Chin refugees reside, discrimination abounds. Chin there face religious persecution and other forms of oppression. The institutional bias in the region hampers Chin from securing housing and finding employment.

Anti-immigrant protests have also flourished and authorities and citizen groups have literally forced thousands of Chin out of India and back to Burma. These authorities and locals probably tell themselves they are helping to keep the peace by driving out the foreigners in their region. Of course, holding bigoted protests to drive victims of human rights abuses back to the place where the grossest of the abuses take place is not what I consider peaceful. Peace, then, I guess is relative and people can twist it into what ever mishappen shape they want. As for me, I plan to retain my definition of peace as something desired. I will continue to wish this peace for all beings and do my part to help it become a reality.

Joe/SJI

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