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'God’s Army' disbanded

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'God’s Army' disbanded

The Bible speaks of God as a warrior, and He commanded the Israelites to make war against the peoples living in the land of Canaan, as punishment for their godless lives and to prevent them from causing the Israelites to turn away from Him. But it is difficult to imagine him seconding two boys, not even in their teens, to lead several hundred other children through the Myanmar jungle for four years as part of the resistance movement against the military junta that has ruled Myanmar (Burma) since 1990.

In 1997, the Karen National Union was subject to a major attack by the Myanmar military; according to legend, Luther and Johnny Htoo mobilised their village to successfully resist the attack. After this, they became accepted as leaders of a splinter resistance group of between 100 and 200 young guerillas, calling themselves God’s Army. All this, despite the fact that they were about nine or ten years old!

Over the next three to four years they haunted the borders of Myanmar and Thailand with their rag tag army of teenage fugitives, attacking the Myanmar militia, until their camp was found and destroyed. They then wandered the jungle hunting birds and ’mucking around’, until they gave themselves up to Thai officials in January of 2001.

The Thai government, having to deal with over 100,000 Myanmar refugees who have sought sanctuary in Thailand, decided to send the Htoo brothers to America. The two boys do not want to go. They heard about the September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA and decided it was an unsafe place. They preferred to remain in Thailand, and according to international practice, refugees must agree to be resettled: they, their family and a score of followers, wish to live in the Tham Hin refugee camp which is on the border between Thailand and Burma, because many of the Karen live there. In the USA the two brothers would be completely out of their element.

While the Htoo boys show, more or less, Christian ethics - they did not allow swearing, drinking, or narcotics in their group - and have had a Baptist influence - they also evince other beliefs that point to the influence of more naturalistic religion: for instance, Johnny refuses to cut his hair, believing that if he does, he will fall ill. Both of the boys are vegetarian, believing that meat will make them ill. There is also, of course, the matter of having killed members of the Myanmar militia: however, being so young and easily influenced, it would be astonishing if they had not been affected psychologically by their years of guerilla warfare, and being the leaders of over 100 people.>

However, despite the maturity that has been enforced upon them because of the situation, they still show attributes of childhood, missing their parents, wanting to play like other children and gain an education. It is to be hoped that Luther and Johnny’s future years will not be marred in the way that the past several years have.

(From TACL Vol 23 #3 April 2002)