The president of Payap University and a team of administrators went to Rangoon (Yangon) Burma (Myanmar) last week to assist HE the Ambassador of Thailand to celebrate the 85th birthday of HM the King of Thailand, which is Thailand’s national day. We took a troupe of four dancers and a group of five jazz musicians.
In reflecting on the week, it may have been incidental things that made the strongest initial impression on me. There are too many to mention, so just three:
The Shwe Dagon Buddhist Temple in the heart of the city is (like Angkor Wat for Cambodia) the nation’s central icon and most significant symbol of Burmese culture. It is also one of the most important Buddhist sites in the world, and one of the holiest. Rules demand one remove one’s shoes. Certain British colonists earned immense disdain by trying to refuse to do so. The monk who opposed them is a hero with a statue on a pillar in one of the city’s traffic circles. But recognition of holiness is a deeper matter. I found few Christians in our group could discern holiness in that place and knew what to do about it.
We visited a music school in a deteriorating part of town. I was enthralled by the high quality of the music, especially the close-harmony singing of a young male quartet whose first number was announced as a song supporting gay relationships. It was a throw-away comment, but I caught it. It led to a short chat after the recital about how homosexuality is still illegal in Burma, but the law is not enforced. I know there are gays everywhere and a gay Christian group has just published and launched a Burmese language edition of “The Children Are Free”, a book affirming Christian homosexuality as consistent with Christian scripture.
The Burmese national costume for men is a sarong (a tube of cloth in a plaid design) worn with a white collarless shirt buttoned at the neck with a glittering jewel; at night men add a black shirt-jacket tied shut. Traditionally they wear nothing under that. They get my vote for comfort, cost and … uh … convenience. Who says skirts are just for women?
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.