Friday, May 09, 2008

What Would Jesus Do: Aid to Burma?

After Cyclone Nargis smashed into Burma and left an estimated 100,000 dead in its wake, the world rushed to offer aid. However, the military junta in charge there has dragged its feet.

They decided to allow aid, but not foreign aid workers or specialists. In fact, they impounded the first flight of food that arrived today.

It is clear that the military junta doesn't care about taking care of their citizens (this is not new...check out this list of human rights violations). They didn't prepare for the cyclone. They are more concerned about outsiders entering the country than the possible death of hundreds of thousands of more Burmese from disease and exposure.

The junta is very secretive, but they have promised to press on with a very controversial referendum this Saturday irregardless of the fact that large parts of the country have no basic infrastructure and experts believe rural communities are completely cut off from the rest of the country. The new constitution looks to enshrine impunity for crimes against humanity by the military. There was little doubt this new constitution would pass, but the military may want to keep foreigners out to avoid anyone reporting on the vote.

Like many unitary states, there is concern that the military wants to control the distribution of food to reward supporters and punish critics. The military could easily use the food aid as a bribe for a "yes" vote on the referendum on Saturday.

The international community is torn about what to do. Do they respect Burma's soveriegnty or do they move on the "responsibility to protect" - this is the notion that the international community has a right, indeed a duty, to intervene in another country's affairs, if it is not upholding its responsibilities to its own citizens.

While all that is interesting, I simply want to know...what would Jesus do?