Military checkpoints have disappeared and political prisoners have been released, but Myanmar's children need our help, and tomorrow night, a Palmerston North audience will be brought up to speed on what is happening in the poor Southeast Asian country.
There is progress, but children there need financial help for education, or a generation will risk growing up untaught, says Aung Mang, the principal of the Myanmar Evangelical Graduate School of Theology.
Dr Mang will speak in Palmerston North tomorrow. He's touring New Zealand to raise funds for work to improve life in Myanmar.
Myanmar has been under a military dictatorship since 1962. A military junta held power from 1998 until 2010, when elections were held. Westerners doubted those elections were democratic and fair, but Dr Mang said the polls had resulted in increased freedoms for Burmese people, especially in the past six months.
"There used to be military checkpoints everywhere, checking everything. Those have mostly gone ... political prisoners are being released," he said. "People are happier and more joyful."
One of the country's biggest problems was inflation.
The average wage was about $100 a month; education at primary or secondary level cost about $30 per month. Even with both parents working, it was hard to pay for children to attend school.
Dr Mang's school offers education and care to children who would otherwise live on the street, because their parents can't afford to feed, house or educate them. The school's programmes prepare young Christians for leadership, educating them to help others.
"So we come to New Zealand to ask for help for these children. There are generous people here."
Dr Mang is the son of the first Christian converts in his region of Chin State. He completed his theological education in the Philippines, and went home to spread the Christian word among the Buddhists of Myanmar, building churches and offering education.
Dr Mang will speak at the Christian Community Church in Pascal St at 7.30pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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