Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng kneels and pleads with security personnel not to shoot unarmed civilians in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state, on Feb. 28. (Photo supplied)
As Myanmar security forces cracked down on street protests on Feb. 28, Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng was determined to protect the people staging peaceful protests against the military coup.
Undeterred by fear, Sister Nu Tawng knelt down before the security personnel, pleading with them not to shoot the unarmed civilians.
“Just shoot me if you want to,” said the nun, adding that “the protesters have no weapons and they are just showing their desire peacefully.”
The nun from the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier congregation in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state, recalled that security personnel told her to leave as she was in grave danger, but she insisted she would not go away and was ready to die.
“I have prepared myself that I will give my life for the Church, for the people and for the nation,” she said.
Speaking to UCA News on March 1, Sister Nu Tawng elaborated on how she twice pleaded with security forces and how she helped protesters escape beatings and arrests.
Feb. 28 saw nationwide strikes against military rule as thousands of people have the protests that brought an intensified crackdown by police and soldiers, leading to at least 18 deaths and scores of wounded.
The 45-year-old nun recalled that dozens of protesters ran and hid in the church-run clinic where she worked as security personnel beat, chased and arrested them.
“When I saw that scenario, I felt it’s like a battle zone,” she said. She was also hit in the leg and chest but only suffered minor injuries.
Sister Nu Tawng was one of the nuns who stood before the clinic and showed solidarity with the protesters by holding placards that read "Justice and democracy will prevail" as anti-coup protesters marched on the streets.
Furthermore, she has also taken part in marches in Myitkyina together with priests, laypeople and other nuns to pray for peace.
The nun said she felt deep sorrow and cried when she saw images of security forces violently cracking down on peaceful protests in several cities.
“I’m a Catholic nun but I’m also a citizen of Myanmar, so I have the same feeling as the people of Myanmar,” she said. “I am always thinking about how I can give a hand to the people of Myanmar.”
Sister Nu Tawng stressed that people from all walks of life, religions and ethnicities need to walk hand in hand to reach the goal of democracy.
“I believe we will reach our goal through perseverance despite the journey being tough and facing more bloodshed,” she said.
The images of Sister Nu Tawng’s courageous intervention were shared on social media and even people from outside Myanmar including journalists, rights groups and former UN rights envoy Yanghee Lee lauded her bravery.
Kachin state, a Christian stronghold, has seen daily protests against military rule while thousands of people took to the streets in several cities following the Feb. 1 coup.
Priests, nuns and Catholic laypeople including internally displaced persons have recited the rosary and prayers as well as sung gospel songs for peace in the country.
Nuns also stood before churches and convents holding placards to show solidarity with the people of Myanmar as hundreds of anti-coup protesters marched by.
Conflict-torn Kachin state has drawn little attention from the international media despite peaceful protesters having faced two crackdowns by security forces in early February.
There have been arrests of protesters and journalists but Kachin state has so far not reported any deaths.
The Kachin, who are mostly Baptists and Catholics, have faced oppression and persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s military, which has long been accused of rights abuses in ethnic minority regions.
Most of the state’s 1.7 million Kachin are Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.
Renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) flared up in 2011 following the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire.
More than 100,000 people have remained in internally displaced person camps in Kachin and neighboring Shan state.
The Kachin have fought for self-determination and autonomy in the Buddhist-majority country since 1961.
Peace remains elusive in the conflict-torn region despite gunfire having fallen silent two years ago as the military and KIA have yet to sign a truce.
Minority ethnic groups make up a third of Myanmar’s 54 million people. Major Christian populations are found in the states of Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin.
Ethnic people from seven states have long called for what Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, agreed — a system based on federalism and autonomy. The rights of minority groups were neglected during the decades-long rule of the Bamar majority’s iron-fisted military.
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