“I don’t know anything about politics”


Some people complain when they hear sermons from religious preachers which they think are too “political”. Many feel uncomfortable when these preachers question the existing social and economic and even political order and the prevailing values of the day. Politics, they feel, has nothing to do with religion.

In fact, the sharpest critics of such preachers are those who have a conservative and narrow understanding of what it means to be a compassionate and concerned human being in a world where 2 per cent of the world’s population control half the world’s wealth. Others feel that politics is of no interest to them and they do not see how it is connected to their lives.

In Christianity, Jesus himself was “politically incorrect” in his sermons: the values he expounded – compassion, sharing of resources, love, justice – were sharply at odds with the values of the Roman Empire as well as the authoritarian local religious system of his time.

Here’s an anecdote about Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, which I included in a piece I wrote for the Herald in December. (By the way, let’s add our calls for the release of Suu Kyi, whose term of house arrest will come under review on 27 May. This courageous freedom fighter has been detained for 11 of the last 17 years by Burma’s military regime, which is afraid of its own shadow).

Suu Kyi once wrote about a young woman who got up during a meeting and complained, “I don’t know anything about politics.” She asked the young woman why she was at the meeting then and the young woman began to explain why.

“I discovered that she (the young woman) knew everything about politics,” wrote Suu Kyi, in the foreword to the book “Burma – More Women’s Voices” (published by the Alternative Asean Network on Burma or Altsean-Burma).

“She did not know she was talking about politics. She talked about the fact that she was worried about her children’s education, she talked about insecurity of her husband’s job, she talked about the worry of constant inflation, she talked about the fact that people were afraid to talk freely on the streets. All these really were political matters but she did not realise that they were political matters. Which is why I say that women are very, very politically aware although they do not know it themselves.”

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