"God used me to save the people," said Sister Rose.
In a new book, Burmese nun Sister Ann Rose Na Tawng tells what led her to kneel before the army twice in February and March 2021. The nun was the guest at a video conference at the Vatican to present the book in Italian, Uccidete me, non la gente (“Kill Me, Not the People,” in English), and to testify about the situation in her country.
“I didn’t prepare anything. While I was working I heard the military approaching the insurgent crowd and I just wanted to defend them,” she says. “I knelt down so that the young people could save themselves from this danger.” The photo of this nun kneeling in front of the soldiers has been shown around the world. She recounts how the soldiers told her, “We don’t want to kill anyone, we just want to scare them, we just have to follow orders.”
“Prayer is fundamental to my life”
Sister Rose says she understood the risk involved but explains that she didn’t think for a moment about her own life. “I shouted, ‘kill me, not the people …’ I don’t have an explanation,” she says. “The next night I thought about it and was amazed that I was still alive.” The Burmese woman says she “felt the action of the Holy Spirit”: “God used me to save the people. Prayer is fundamental to my life; I drew my strength from it to help the people and to behave in this way.”
Since then, she only leaves her convent to go to the nearby hospital where she works. Sister Rose believes that her life is still under threat. “The police regularly come to check my papers, take pictures, and ask me questions,” she says.
The nun took the opportunity to thank Pope Francis for his availability to serve the Burmese community in Rome. The pontiff in fact celebrated a Mass for them in St. Peter’s Basilica on May 16. “I’m very proud,” she said. “If I have the opportunity to speak with him I will ask him to ask the heads of state of the world to raise awareness of the dramatic situation in the country, as the violence continues. Pope Francis is a world figure and his words are worth gold. If he speaks, all nations will pay us heed.”
Today, young people continue the protests in every possible way, she says, while the repression continues at the same pace. The plainclothes police continue to shoot at the crowd and arrest demonstrators. According to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), since the coup d’état three months ago, 3,000 people have been arrested and 800 others have died.