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Resurrected Burmese Monk Story Revisited
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Resurrected Burmese Monk Story Revisited
During the year 2000, numerous emails circulated on the Internet passing on the dramatic story: ’BACK FROM THE DEAD The Remarkable Testimony of a Buddhist monk in Myanmar (Burma) who came back to life a changed man!’
With CCG Ministries’ involvement in Asia, including Myanmar, we were very interested in this story and its authenticity.
It was brought to ’life’ on the Internet through the promotion of a Christian missionary organization then called, Asian Minorities Outreach, later changing its name to: Asia Harvest, headquartered in Texas, USA, and operating from Thailand. Its Director, Paul Hatthaway, has written several books, including ’The Heavenly Man’.
For quite some time the ’resurrected Buddhist monk’ story appeared on the front page of the organisation’s website. Then the actual story was removed from their website, but a remaining reference to it encouraged people to request a copy of the story by email. The following explanation for the change, was given by the group at the time:
’A Quick Note: We have been asked by many people why this testimony is no longer available on our website. We were ordered to remove the story by the government of Singapore, who had apparently received complaints from Buddhists. As our website is housed in Singapore at the moment, we didn’t have much choice.’
AMO/Asia Harvest introduced the story with the following introduction:
’The story that follows is simply a translation of a taped testimony from a man with a life-changing story. It is not an interview or a biography, but simply the words from the man himself. Different people react in different ways when they hear this story. Some are inspired, some skeptical, a few will mock and ridicule, while some others have even been filled with rage and anger, convinced these words are the ravings of a mad man or an elaborate deception. Some Christians have opposed the story simply because the radical and miraculous events described herein do not fit their feeble image of an Almighty God.’
We were concerned with the above wording and commented in our 2001 report that it was interesting to note the approach they took in the introduction. Anyone who questioned the story would immediately be labelled as a sceptic, a mocker or ridiculer, someone filled with rage and anger, or worse a Christian whose concept of God is feeble and who does not believe that an Almighty God can be radical and perform miracles.
This could be seen by some as a form of bullying and intimidation to dismiss any form of thought and questioning of the story. It is not a healthy or biblical approach to dealing with questions about such a dramatic story, nor does it encourage people to use their minds.
The resurrected monk’s story was quite a dramatic tale and it has impressed many people. It was even reported in the well-known Christian Singaporean magazine: IMPACT (June/July 2000, p.45). It continued to be circulated and passed on through emails for some time.
But was it true? If it was, it SHOULD be circulated - whatever the consequences. But what if it was NOT true? Should it then continue to be circulated never-the-less? We believe not!
It should be noted that there have been several versions of the story circulating. One version, which was circulating in March and April of 2000, began with an ’Extract’:
’Myanmar: Buddhist monk raised from the dead - 300 monks turn to Jesus. “In 1998, a Buddhist monk died. A few days later, his funeral was held, at which he was to be cremated. From the smell, it was obvious that his body had started to decompose - he was very clearly dead!” according to the report from missions agency Asian Minorities Outreach. “We have attempted to verify this report which reached us from a number of sources, and are now convinced that it is accurate,” they write.
Hundreds of monks and relatives of the dead man attended the funeral. Just as the body was about to be burned, the dead monk suddenly sat up, shouting ’It’s a lie! I saw our ancestors burning and being tortured in some sort of fire. I also saw Buddha and many other Buddhist holy men. They were all in a sea of fire!’ ’We must listen to the Christians,’ he continued emphatically, ’they’re the only ones who know the truth!’
The events shocked the whole region. Over 300 monks became Christians and started to study the Bible. The resurrected man continued to warn everyone to believe in Jesus, because he is the only true God. Tapes of the monk’s report were distributed throughout Myanmar. The Buddhist hierarchy and the government were soon alarmed, and they arrested the monk. He has not been seen since and it is feared that he was killed to keep him silent. It is now a serious crime to listen to the tapes, because the government wants to dampen the sensation.’
On Sunday 19th November 2000, CCG Ministries’ Director, Adrian van Leen, interviewed and spoke with a man who claimed to be the ’resurrected’ Paul in a hotel function room in Yangon in the company of four Myanmar Christian leaders.
That interview raised serious questions as to the authenticity of the story under consideration.
Our detailed review of the interview with the man claiming to be Paul, the ’resurrected’ monk, was published as a report, sent to Asia Harvest, and placed on our website. After emailing a copy of the report, we also sent a ’hard’ copy of the TACL containing the printed article, to Asia Harvest. In the latter part of 2003 we received the following email from Asia Harvest:
I’m sure you will remember our communications a year or two back regarding the story of the Buddhist monk in Myanmar who came back to life. We were the ones who first had his testimony translated and published on our website.
Then you travelled to Myanmar and met with a man regarding this story. Your graphic report of that interview, his seemingly unstable mind and completely inconsistent testimony left us with no option but to withdraw the story from our website and offer our deep apologies. The last thing we want to do is discredit the name of our Lord Jesus by publishing any story that is untrue. I wrote to you of our intentions and you accurately reported,
[After Asia Harvest received a copy of this report they removed all references to the story from their website and stopped sending out email transcripts of the claimed resurrection account. They will be making some statement regarding their initial endorsement of the story. When this is available we will gladly append it to this report.]
However, when we received your magazine article which carried a picture of the man you interviewed, we showed it to two Burmese pastors who met the original “Paul” in Myanmar and they immediately said this was the wrong man! Later a missionary who lives here in Thailand but who works in Myanmar also said the man you interviewed looks nothing like the monk, being much younger.
More information since has revealed that there are actually three or four different people in Myanmar who claim they were monks who rose from the dead! Our contacts in Yangon (Rangoon) say that two of these are completely untrustworthy men, with little evidence of a genuine conversion to Christ. One of these is the young man you interviewed. No wonder his birth-date and other key facts were different from the testimony we published - it was not the same person! It almost seems that Satan sent along these counterfeits with false testimonies and a poor witness in order to discredit the original testimony.
Can we absolutely guarantee the story we published is true - of course not. Only God and the person involved can know what happened in such a story. We stated this when we first released the transcript of his testimony. But as far as can be verified, we have yet to be convinced that this testimony is false. We have been told it now seems likely that the monk Paul was killed. He was in hiding for more than 12 months and has not been heard of since. Another ex-monk who lives in Shan State, who also converted to Christ through miraculous circumstances is also being hunted by the authorities in a bid to silence him.
In the interests of fairness, would you be willing to publish our comments in this email with the story that is on your website?
God bless you,
Unfortunately, this update from Asia Harvest still fails to answer many of the questions and issues CCG Ministries raised in our report initially.
Our report had already acknowledged that there were several people in Myanmar (Burma) claiming to be the ’resurrected’ monk: Further complications have arisen with this whole saga. According to the beliefs of some people in Myanmar (or some with friends and/or relatives in Myanmar), several different people supposedly, or apparently, are claiming to be the resurrected Buddhist monk - at least an older man and a not-so-balanced young man.
Even if we completely remove the questionable ’Paul’ interviewed by CCG Ministries’ Director and several Myanmar Pastors, we are still left with serious questions about the whole story anyway. These were made clear in our 2001 report and remain unanswered by the recent comments from Asia harvest.
Apart from the contradictions made by [the suspect] Paul in front of witnesses, there are still serious questions about the content of his [the ’original ’Paul’] supposed visions or visit to hell and heaven, as well as questions about editorial comments made by Asian Minorities Outreach/Asia Harvest.
AMO/Asia Harvest has made statements about Paul being radically transformed and having a 180-degree shift in his life, and him continuing to be a fearless witness for Christ, of him being persecuted, scorned by family, friends and colleagues, and facing death for his unwillingness to compromise. But some Myanmar Christian leaders have asked (as we do also) on what do they base this, apart from his say so [or the say-so of unnamed pastors whose comments seem in clear conflict with that of the majority of pastors — especially from known established churches and denominations]? What evidence do they have?
Statements that [the ’original’] Paul had been arrested and imprisoned - probably several times, not seen since, and that it was feared that he had been killed to keep him silent - are all highly emotive. While claims of imprisonment in such a situation are plausible and even probable, they remain unsubstantiated.
AMO/Asia Harvest has stated that the story was first told them by several Burmese church leaders, and that since being initially told they ’have attempted to verify this report which reached us from a number of sources, and are now convinced that it is accurate.’ IMPACT Magazine reported that a spokesman for AMO/Asia Harvest stated: ’We believe it to be true as there are many witnesses to these events.’
CCG Ministries’ Director, Adrian van Leen, before, especially during, and after his visit to Myanmar in November 2000, [and subsequent visits in 2001 and 2002] has spoken to a number of [numerous] Myanmar Christian leaders - including a number who are involved in inter-church/inter-denominational work, as well as leaders of several denominations. He spoke with leaders from Yangon and across Myanmar who attended a conference in Bago, and also Christian leaders in Mandalay and a regional township. Many of these leaders from across varying denominations had contact with other Christian leaders across the country.
No one was able to give ANY form of authentication to the story. A number of leaders, including those who had been in Christian leadership in Mandalay, knew of no evidence to confirm any part of the story. Some of the Myanmar Christian leaders would very much like to know who the ’several Burmese church leaders’ are that AMO/Asia Harvest refers to as their sources for this story.
In fact, it was pointed out very clearly that, had the story been true, especially had there been a number of Buddhist monks converted to Christianity - especially as many as 300 and very much so if there were as many as 7,000 - the news would have spread rapidly. While the government-controlled media might have tried to suppress such news - the Christians and churches (particularly in the Mandalay area) would not have been able - nor have wanted to - suppress such news. It would have spread rapidly and widely through the churches. The Buddhist community would also have spread the story - though for different reasons.
The claim that ’there are many witnesses to these events’ is also disputed by Myanmar Christian leaders, who have stated that they had never met anyone who had been a direct primary witness - nor anyone who had personally met a direct witness to these events… The reality is that in Myanmar itself no one has been able to find any witnesses or any evidence whatever, to support the story of the resurrected Paul.
It was also pointed out that [the ’original’] Paul’s claim to have seen Aung San, the revolutionary leader of Myanmar (father of current opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi) in hell ’because he persecuted and killed Christians, but mostly because he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ’ was completely without foundation. He is a well known figure in Burmese/Myanmar thinking and history - and there is no evidence at all that he persecuted any Christians, let alone killed any.
AMO/Asia Harvest has invited ’Christian believers to judge it [Paul’s resurrection story] according to Scripture.’
As one senior Myanmar pastor pointed out, the story and description of hell given by Paul, is itself contrary to Scripture. Paul’s story is also in conflict with the story Jesus told in the account of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). When carefully examined it is also in conflict with the comments of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 - in particular where that Paul was able to name eye witnesses to the resurrection of Christ - and acknowledged at the time that some were still living - in other words, he was able to produce witnesses who could testify to the authenticity of his claims.
Pastors in Myanmar are still asking for real evidence and living witnesses to the claimed miracle with whom they can discuss and verify the story. So far, the story’s authenticity remains with the claims made by Asia Harvest.
The story of the ’resurrected Paul’ is known throughout much of Myanmar - and his tape has circulated (in several versions). Hardly anyone in Myanmar - especially amongst Christian leaders - has accepted or believed the story. There is just nothing to back it up.
Far from the ’resurrected monk’ story providing a ’fearless and faithful witness to Jesus Christ, whose testimony is converting Buddhists, strengthening the church or bringing glory to God’s name’, Myanmar pastor have told our Director that it has brought fear and suspicion to many Christians in the country. We concluded our 2001 report with the comment: Whatever the truth behind this sad saga, most Christians, and most pastors and church leaders in Myanmar, are not taking this story seriously and see little value in it for the growth of the Christian community in that country.
From the evidence we have been able to examine, including the claims and content of the story itself, and all the discussions with Pastors and others in Myanmar, we believe it would have been wiser for the story not to have been published and circulated.
We believe that ’miracle stories’ which cannot be adequately substantiated ought to be treated with caution — especially if those stories, or significant parts of those stories, do not conform to Scripture. Lives continue to be changed by the resurrected and living Jesus Christ — sometimes dramatically, sometimes quietly — the substance of those changed lives are quiet miracles that are often clear and undisputed. They continue to honour Christ and encourage others.
(From TACL Vol 23 #1 Jan 2002)