Over the years when we had the privilege of preparing small groups of teenagers for the sacrament of Confirmation, the question invariably arose of someone to nominate as a role model. in other words a public figure part of whose own life at least might inspire ours.
Early on people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Bob Geldoff (for Band Aid) were suggested but towards the end of our stint as catechists (keeping up with teenagers can be slightly tiring) apart from the occasional sportsman or woman like Paula Radcliffe (mother/marathon champion) fewer and fewer examples of inspiring role models came to mind. In our final year the young people mostly nominated their mothers or other family members. Obviously mums are hugely important but the absence in the latter years of nominations of any public figures especially given the celeb culture with which the media if not the people of this nation seem besotted, was both a surprising and disappointing contrast with the experiences in the earlier years of discussing this aspect of life with young people.
The amazingly courageous, dignified and sprited woman whose name heads this blog post has essentally been imprisoned or under house arrest since 1989 for having the temerity to lead an opposition political party which won the general election in Burma in 1990. (Her father was assassinated when she was a two year old baby girl). She won the Nobel Peace prize in 1990 but despite or perhaps because of that she was not permitted to see her British husband before he died of cancer; neither has she ever been allowed to see her grandchildren. Looking back I wonder if the reason for our not suggesting Suu Kyi as a role model at the time was partly at least, the simple human failing of not being able easily to recall or pronounce her name. If so I hope that such failing will not be repeated. Nelson Mandella who is a comparable figure has a name which for native English speakers at least, is easier to recall, which may explain why his courageous story seems so much more familiar and did attract worldwide support including demonstrations.
Suu Kyi's dignified drama continues to unfold as I type as she may or may not be released today. Her spirit is such however that unless her release is unconditional she may not accept quasi freedom or may breach the conditions to further her peaceful quest for her nation's liberation from its military rulers which in turn could lead to her re-incarcaration.
Her stand against military rule surely warrants peaceful demonstrative support in countries whose people are fortunate enough to enjoy the fruits of the very freedoms that she seeks for Burma. Yet in England at least where are the demonstrative protests? True the BBC and the more readable newspapers contain much supportive information but alas we seem too preoccupied with our domestic mainly financial matters these days to march in support of such truly heroic stand for real human freedoms; students for example seem too busy protesting about their own institutions' financing arrangements to take on board the need to provide massive encouragement for this amazing woman's stand in favour of real human rights.