A balmy Monday night in November found us at the local Sh*n monastry in Y*ngon to usher in the official Sh*n New Year. After praying for these people for months, it was such an honor to be in Burm* to celebrate with them.
Under normal circumstances, this many Sh*n people would never be allowed to congregate, but the military restrictions are eased for important festivals such as this one. As one of the largest ethnic groups in the land, their sheer numbers pose a threat to the establishment. The Sh*n have been engaged in an intermittent civil war with the authorities for decades.
This event draws huge crowds of Sh*n people from the surrounding area and very few tourists. During their frequent conflicts with the government, many Sh*n are burned out of their villages and forced to fleet the country into Thailand.
Every year important dignitaries from the local Sh*n community are honored at events such as this one. Young Sh*n men are often conscripted into the My*nm*r Army or enslaved to provide road work for months with no wages or food. These people are survivors under the most difficult of circumstances and any chance to honor their heroes is moving and meaningful.
Local legend “Sarah” is a much beloved rock star in this land and delivers a passionate performance reminiscent of a rowdy Asian Joan Jett. After hours of traditional dance routines and honorific events, “Sarah's” passionate performance took the audience enthusiasm level to unparallelled heights. Rock and roll is alive and well!
Even a couple of visiting tourist-types can get a coveted chance to pose with their favorite local rock star. (Note the sweat from our labors destroying another t-shirt—this job requires lots of frequent hydration.) A high-profile Christian in a land of less than 1% Christian population provides “Sarah” with a rare platform for breaking down stereotypes that all Christians are foreign devils. Pray for her.
The next morning we would start our exceedingly long journey into the official Sh*n St*te, the home of these proud people.