Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and their supporters have taken to the streets in Myanmar to protest that country's military government. For days they have peacefully marched in defiance of government orders to stay out of politics -- orders backed by the threatening presence of troops in full battle gear.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
According to the Associated Press, "At first the robed monks simply chanted and prayed. But as the public joined the march, the demonstrators demanded dialogue between the government and opposition parties, freedom for political prisoners, as well as adequate food, shelter and clothing."
Even in this country, which has a tradition of separation of church and state, religious leaders have sometimes felt compelled to lead a political movement. Martin Luther King Jr. obviously comes to mind. Using the language and worldview of Christianity, he called on this nation to live up to its own ideals of equality and liberty.
But he, like the Myanmar monks, wasn't proposing a theocracy, where religious leaders hold the power and enforce their own standard of conduct and belief on all citizens. In both cases, they used nonviolent protest to stand for the oppressed and to call for true democracy.
That, I think, is the proper role of religion in politics: to speak up for the powerless and to call the powerful to account.
What is your view?