Amid escalating violence between the military and protestors in northern Myanmar, a nun went down on her knees in front of police, pleading with them to stop shooting and spare “the children,” offering up her life instead.
A now-viral video shows Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier congregation, in a white robe and black habit kneeling, her arms spread, on a street in the town of Myitkyina, speaking to two policemen who were also kneeling.
“I knelt down … begging them not to shoot and torture the children, but to shoot me and kill me instead,” she said, according to The Guardian.
“I begged them not to hurt the protesters, but to treat them kindly like family members,” the nun told Reuters. “I told them that they can kill me, I am not standing up until they give their promise that they will not brutally crack down on protesters.”
The unrest began on Feb. 1, when the military detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and put a commander in charge of the country. Violence has escalated in recent weeks as Myanmar’s military junta continues to use force, teargas, rubber bullets, and live rounds to silence protestors.
Tawng told UCA News that she was working in a church-run clinic when she spotted military personnel chasing, beating, and arresting protestors wearing hard hats and carrying homemade shields on the street.
“I thought today is the day I will die. I decided to die,” she told Sky News.
The 45-year-old ran outside to confront the police and told the UCA News that she had prepared herself to “give my life for the Church, for the people and for the nation.”
Tawng said she had received assurances from senior officers that they were just clearing the road. However, gunfire started soon afterward, and at least two protestors were killed and several others injured.
“We heard loud gunshots, and saw that a young kid’s head had exploded, and there was a river of blood on the street,” Tawng said. “The children panicked and ran to the front … I couldn’t do anything but I was praying for God to save and help the children.”
The nun told Reuters that she tried to bring some of the victims to the clinic before she was blinded by tear gas.
“Our clinic floor became a sea of blood,” she said. “We need to value life. It made me feel so sad.”
Over 60 people have been killed and more than 1,800 detained in the crackdown on anti-coup protests, The Associated Press reports.
As thousands continue to protest the coup, the military has imposed a nighttime curfew and conducted mass arrests to disperse the crowds.
Christians make up about 6% of the majority-Buddhist nation. Formerly known as Burma, the country is ranked No. 18 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of 50 countries where it's most difficult to be a believer.
Rights groups have warned that the military’s consolidation of power in the coup will only make things worse for religious minorities and have urged the international community to take action against the abuses being perpetrated by the military regime.
“The military is notorious for its relations with the ultranationalist ultra-Buddhist group the Ma Ba Tha,” International Christian Concern's Southeast Asia Regional Manager, Gina Goh, said. “The military together with Ma Ba Tha has targeted the Muslims in the country, but they also go after Christians. Once they get a hold of the power, they might resort to things they were doing before they passed the power to the civilian government. They kill. They rape minority Christians.”
In Myanmar, the military holds immense power and controls 25% of the government, according to the country’s Constitution. Military leaders are nationalists who support the country’s majority religion of Buddhism.
“[The coup is] a power play," said Goh. "The military is almost like a gang. They can use their power to intimidate people.”