BEFORE the war Burma was a comparatively prosperous and happy country. In the South the soil was fertile, so fertile that it was popularly said that the "farmer tickles the soil and it laughs forth an abundant harvest." The result of this was that Burma produced twice as much rice as it needed for its own people, and was able to export between three and four million tons every year. The basic food of its people was assured. There was in Burma little of the grinding poverty that one sees in India or China. Yet the average income of a village family could not have been much more than 30 per annum, and in the hills life was hard.
Burma was largely homogeneous: all of its indigenous peoples were of the same Mongolian stock; Karens, Kachins and Chins were nervous of being at the mercy of the more vocal and politically-minded people of the plains, but they were cousins under the skin. Out of a population of nearly 17,000,000 over 10,000,000 were Burman and Buddhist, and a proportion of the other races spoke Burmese with some fluency. Of the remaining population, 1,400,000 were Karens, 1,000,000 Shans, 400,000 Kachins, 350,000 Chins. The Shans, like their kinsfolk the Siamese, are Buddhists. Karens, Kachins and Chins were originally Anirnists, but many of them are becoming Christians, especially among the Karens.
Politically the country was developing rapidly towards self-government. From 1937 onwards internal government had been in the hands of a Burmese ministry answerable to an elected legislative, the only subjects reserved being defence, external affairs, currency, and the government of the scheduled areas which contained the Chins, Kachins and Shans, and some of the Karens. Nationalists called loudly from time to time for a quicker advance, or for independence, but there was little of the bitterness so obvious in India.
The Burmese ministries did good work in the short time allowed them before the Japanese invasion, in spite of the lack of political maturity and experience. Courageous attempts were made to tackle the problems of land tenancy, [3/4] land alienation, and agricultural indebtedness; a sound financial policy was followed; the national conscience was being aroused concerning the evils of bribery and corruption.
Burma lived by her export trade, of which rice was by far the greatest item, though timber, oil, silver, lead and tungsten were also of considerable value. In industry and trade the control and capital were largely in the hands of British, Indian and Chinese. In 1939 the value of exports was approximately £41 millions, and that of imports nearly £21 millions, the gap between being £20 millions. This was mainly accounted for by payments on account of debt, profits to foreign holdings, and remittances to India from Indians working in Burma. In 1937-38 no less than millions was sent to India in postal orders alone.
There can be no doubt that Burma has been exploited commercially by both East and West. Huge profits have been amassed by British and Indian firms. In the reconstruction period ahead it will be only just if Burmese Governments insist on a larger share of the profits remaining in the country. The issue, however, is not as simple as it sounds, for Burmese people do not make a practice of investing their money in limited companies, nor are they willing to accept the discipline and hard work which British and Indians put into their commercial undertakings. Also it needs to be said on behalf of the British companies that they are the best employers in the country, and that Burma has profited with the development of their industries.
In peace-time there were over a million Indians in Burma--traders, lawyers, doctors, clerks, and a host of labourers. Cynics sometimes said that all the hard and dirty work in Burma was done by Indians, most of the skilled labour by Chinese, while the Burmans contented themselves with growing the rice (though even there they need a large contingent of seasonal labour from India). The presence of so many Indians, with their thrift and industry, and their lower standards of living, caused a good deal of unrest in Burmese minds, especially as much of the seasonal labour was organised by Indian trade and shipping interests, who wanted unlimited supplies of cheap labour without the responsibility of providing proper housing and [4/5] medical conditions, or the acceptance of a wage standard which would have made Burmans willing to compete.
Indians, too, tended to claim in practice two nationalities: equal rights in Burma, yet freedom to appeal to their own Government of India whenever they felt their interests were being overlooked. In 1941 an Indian Immigration Agreement was drawn up which limited the entry of Indians into Burma. Under this, Indians who had their roots in Burma were to be allowed to become Burmese citizens. However, before this agreement could be put into operation the Japanese invaded the country, and some 400,000 Indians fled to India, where many of them found that their hearts were still in the country of their adoption.
Some 200,000 Chinese lived in Burma before the war; most of them were small traders or skilled workers, though in many villages the Chinese shopkeeper combined the local pawnshop, liquor shop and opium shop, and often enlivened the whole lot with a spot of gambling. This last-named activity won a ready response from the light-hearted Burmans. With the opening of the Burma Road to China the number of Chinese in the country was increasing rapidly, and the Burmese Ministry had already initiated discussions for limiting Chinese immigration into Burma.
12,000 Europeans, mostly British, completed the quota of foreigners in the country. These were in Government service or industry and trade. The latter class had a large share in overseas trade, shipping and organised industry. They contributed much to the life and wealth of the country, but naturally were under control of boards at home, whose chief interests were profits.
On the whole there was not enough friendship between British and Burmese. In many a British home in Rangoon no Burman had ever been entertained as an equal, and the powerful and exclusive Gymkhana Club aroused much bitterness by refusing to admit people of Asiatic birth as members, even if they were the equals of Europeans in social and educational standing. It is much to be hoped that at least one first-class international club will be organised in the new Burma, which will be open to members of all races.
Another small but influential community needs mention, namely the Anglo-Burmans, who number over 10,000, and [5/6] include many who should more correctly be called Anglo Indians. This community has in the past held a privileged position, but its members have done valuable service in all walks of life in posts of intermediate importance and responsibility. Its members, on the whole, have tended to cling to the European part of their heritage, but clearsighted leaders among them were realising that their true welfare lay in identifying themselves with the Burmans rather than with the British. This community was entirely Christian, divided about equally between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. It valued its Christian religion, was disciplined and devout in worship, and exceedingly generous in Church support.
It is against this general background that the work of the Christian Church must be viewed.
The first Christian missionaries to arrive in Burma were Roman Catholic priests, who came as chaplains to Portugese traders in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These, however, did not do much direct missionary work, but contented themselves with working among the Portuguese and their Burmese wives and Eurasian children. The first great missionary to Burma was Judson, the American Baptist, who arrived in Burma in 1813. During his lifetime Judson planted the Church among the Burmans and the Karens, translated the Bible into Burmese and produced Burmese Dictionaries, which are only now being superseded. S.P.G. started work in Burma in 1854, one of their first missionaries being the famous Dr. Marks, the pioneer of education in Burma, tutor to Burmese princes, and one who knew and loved the Burman, and was loved in return, in a way that hardly any other Westerner can claim. The Rangoon Diocese was founded in 1877, and has been generously supported ever since by S.P.G. The B.C.M.S. started work in Burma after the first world war, and has sent a steadily increasing number of enthusiastic men and women missionaries They have concentrated their work in Upper Burma and, keeping exclusively to evangelism and medical work, have built up a growing Kachin and Arakanese Church, with offshoots among the Burmans and Shans.
To-day the Anglican Church has over 25,000 members and nearly 50 native clergy. It is strongest among the [6/7] Karens and the Anglo-Burmans, who together form the backbone of the Christian Church in Burma. Among the Burmans only 15,000 out of over 10 million were Christians, and of these little more than 1000 were Anglicans. Among the Indians there were strong communities of Tamil Christians and some Telugus.
Looking back, one can almost see prevenient grace at work. Over ten years ago the Rangoon Diocese decided to aim at one big objective for the next seven or ten years--the training of the native clergy. Everything was to be judged by its relation to this main aim. The Diocesan Divinity School was raised to the status of a college, more as a pledge of faith than a proof of achievement; it was given a lovely set of buildings on the edge of the University; sufficient staff was provided, and scholarships as well. In England, S.P.G. and S.P.C.K. and the Rangoon Diocesan Association rallied generously to its aid. On Trinity Sunday each year, every church in the diocese gave its offerings to the College of Holy Cross, the contributions varying from 3s. 2d. to £20. The principals of our boys' high schools--S. John's, Rangoon; S. Luke's, Toungoo; All Saints', Shwebo--developed vocations: lads who came direct from the villages were given preparatory courses to fit them for entrance; the existing clergy found a new centre for retreats and conferences, although at times some of them were rather wistful at the sight of so many advantages which their future colleagues were enjoying, and which they had not been able to have in the past.
The new clergy were trained in English as well as Burmese. All of them were able to take services and preach simple sermons in English as well as in at least one language of the country. In a period of seven years, twenty new clergy were trained--eight Karens, six Burmans, two Chins, one Nicobarese, one Anglo-Burman, one Indo-Burman, one Tamil and one Chinese, the last-named being for the Singapore Diocese. All of them had had a period of training under an experienced priest by the time of the Japanese invasion. With their older colleagues they were ready for testing.
Two bishops in succession had insisted on training leaders for the Church. Bishop Tubbs had the vision and courage to put national clergy in charge of missions, even when [7/8] missionaries doubted the wisdom of it. The large Karen Mission at Toungoo once had three missionary priests and something over twenty Karen clergy. Within a period of ten years the three missionaries had been transferred to open up new work, and a Karen priest was in charge of Toungoo. In the Delta Mission a parish system was being developed, with a national priest in charge of each parish district, the whole being co-ordinated as a kind of rural deanery. In the few town churches native priests were more' and more being placed in charge--Moulmein, Prome and East Rangoon soon stood on their own feet. At the same time, parish committees were encouraged to take responsibility with the priest for organisation, finance and evangelism.
Bishop West's aim has been to develop spiritual leadership in the district and nation as well as in the small Christian bodies. In moral and spiritual things be has called Christians to out-think and out-live their neighbours, and so be able to supply the leadership necessary to affect the national life. Village clergy and Christians have begun to see a new responsibility for the village headman, the district councillor and the local M.P.--people whom they used to fear--as well as for the opium-eater and the cattle thief whom they used to avoid.
Under the Bishop's leadership every advantage has been taken. of occasions which in the past have been used for narrow or political purposes only. Thus on the Karen New Year's Day the Karens gave a dinner, and Karen leaders spoke of the contribution they wanted to make to the life of Burma. On a similar occasion for the Burmese, leaders of all races spoke of the kind of Burma they wanted to work for. Christian clergy and laymen were entering into the life of the nation and giving a new content to nationalism.
Arising out of this concentration on the training of the clergy came the need to support them once they had been ordained. In the early days, when there was only a handful of clergy, finance was easy; the whole lot would be paid out of S.P.G. grants. But with the increase in numbers and a decrease in grants the duty of Church support had to be tackled. Most of the clergy did not get more than £3 a month, but even at that the cost of the Ministry was £2,000. At the time of the invasion the native [8/9] Church was raising one-third of this sum; another third came from British and Anglo-Burman Christians, and the remaining third from S.P.G. We were beginning to think of complete Church support, which would enable S.P.G. to decrease its grants still further and send the saving to countries where the Church is not so strong.
Other established ways of mission work were carried on as usual. In education, Christian missions had taken a leading part altogether out of proportion to the number of Christians in the country. In fact, Christian high schools--Roman, Protestant and Anglican--composed more than 60 per cent, of the total number. We Anglicans, with a total population of only 25,000, had high schools in Rangoon (6), Toungoo, Moulmein, Shwebo, Mandalay and Maymyo, in addition to middle schools. These were working under the Government system of education, receiving grants-in-aid, which amounted latterly to 75 per cent. of the difference between approved expenditure and income from school fees.
These schools were producing educated leaders for the future. Most of our Christian pupils came from the villages, and at the start found it difficult to get through the whole course successfully, but in the pre-invasion years this obstacle had been surmounted and there, was a steady stream of lads and girls to the University. Thus the College of Holy Cross took no new theological students for two years because the most promising ordinands were at that time taking their Arts or Science courses in the University, and we were in a position to say that, as a general rule, we would in future accept as ordinands only those who had studied at the University. We did not expect that every theological student would have a degree, but we hoped that the majority would. The standard of matriculation had been attained several years earlier; our students were now moving up to the final educational qualification.
In the University there were two colleges training for the ordinary degrees--University College and Judson College. The latter had been developed through many years by the American Baptist Mission, and was rapidly becoming a united Christian college. Anglican members had been on its staff, and an Anglican representative on its governing body, the same privileges being extended to the British and American Methodist Missions.
 In the villages much had been done to open and develop village schools, especially in the Delta, Toungoo and Kappali areas. S. Mary's School, Kemmendine, trained vernacular teachers for primary and middle grades, while S. Michael's Training School in the Delta led the way in training village schoolmasters with a real rural outlook.
The Church was not only educating her own children, but making a valuable contribution to the education of the country, a contribution not always recognised by Government officials or politicians.
Missions were also contributing towards the health of the country. Every missionary was, in many ways, doctor and nurse in village districts and schools. In recent years a co-ordinated programme of health came into being: the Queen Alexandra Children's Hospital at Mandalay began to specialise in training village nurses in the vernacular. After their period of training these nurses were drafted to Christian vifiages for dispensary and child-birth work. In the Delta a pattern of village health work was developed by two heroic nurses, Avice Cam and Evelyn Websper. Their plan was a central maternity hospital with a network of village dispensaries, each with a trained nurse. The villagers were expected to provide the simple dispensary building, part of the small salary of the nurse, and to pay something towards the cost of medicine and drugs.
Similar groups were being started in the Karen Hills near Toungoo, and in the Kappali mission east of the Saiween. The work was growing and extra workers were needed: we hoped to get these from our own girls--Anglo-Burmans, Karens, Chins and Burmans--educated at our own high schools and trained in the two big Government training hospitals and the Medical College. A Chin girl had already risen to the post of sister in the General Hospital in Rangoon; by this time she is probably married to the Chin priest to whom she was engaged.
In Arakan and up in the north the B.C.M.S. had also been developing medical work. They were in a position to be more generous in the provision of doctors and sisters. Like S.P.G. in the centre and south, they were increasingly looking to the training of rural nurses as their main plan.
Such was the picture in 1941 of life in Burma and the part that the Anglican Church was playing in it. I have [10/11] said but little of the more spiritual work which is the foundation of all our activities. That is implied all through: the worship in the well-built churches of the towns and the more numerous wooden and bamboo churches of the villages; the Christian homes with their quiet witness; the deepening of Christian character; the witness of changed lives and simple, courageous words.
Looking back I think we can recognise spiritual foundations, clear objectives and a progressive programme. In addition we were a happy diocese. We had our differences, sometimes running very deep. Most of us missionaries had a tendency for initiative and decision which, but for the grace of God, might have developed into the dictator spirit. Nearly all missionaries have to fight this battle--we are often isolated from close contact with our own kind, we have to make half-a-dozen decisions daily, we have the trust and loyalty of native fellow-workers and people. In Burma we could not wish for a happier relationship with our indigenous people. In our Anglican Church I have hardly ever met any nationalist bitterness or anti-missionary bias. Possibly one reason for this is that we have tried to develop our Burmese workers, to give them responsibility, to invite co-operation and even criticism. We were a happy band of workers, the European welcomed in any house in the village with a gracious hospitality which would wash the feet of the guest in the muddy weather of. the rains, or swarm up a coconut palm to provide a refreshing drink in the hot weather; and the villager equally welcome at Bishopscourt or in the house of the missionary. Somehow Burmese heart-strings get woven with British, and although difficulties and disappointments come, nothing can ever break the link.
The outbreak of war in the West did not affect Burma very deeply. Mails were uncertain and delayed, and the supply of manufactured goods fell off. But with the fall of France the Church in Burma had to face a serious possibility--the invasion of Britain and the consequent cutting off of funds from missionary societies. We planned to pool all resources and to adopt an austere and communal way of living. Fortunately the worst did not happen. On the contrary S.P.G. kept up its full grants. Our village clergy began to realise the debt we owe to the faithful, generous Churchfolk of Britain. With the blitz on London and other cities there grew up a new sympathy for their brethren in the West, and during those difficult months I heard many simple heartfelt prayers for people enduring the air raids in Britain. Collections were sent from towns and villages to help the Archbishop's Re-construction Fund.
At this moment of extreme difficulty came ominous signs of future trouble in the East, in Japan's demand for the closing of the Burma Road to the transit of war material. Reluctantly Britain agreed, and the road was closed from July to October, 1940, but the loss to China was not very serious, for it was the rainy season when traffic was necessarily limited. The closing of the road gave opportunity for extensive improvements on both sides of the frontier. All the same--"a cloud as small as a man's hand"--working up for a storm.
From that time on efforts were made to strengthen Burma's military forces. The peace-time garrison had amounted to little more than 5,000 troops, including the two British battalions. These were augmented, airfields prepared and the frontier areas dotted with air observation posts. A considerable number of Christians enlisted in the Burma Rifles, especially from the Karens, Kachins and Chins. But Britain was too pre-occupied elsewhere to be able to send the needed men, planes and armaments to Burma, and when Japan made her treacherous attack on Pearl Harbour there could not have been more than 25,000 combat troops in the country, of whom 4,000 were British, 7,000 Indians, and the rest units raised in Burma.
 On December 23rd, Rangoon was badly bombed, about 2,000 people being killed and more than that number injured. This was followed by another heavy raid on Christmas morning. A group of women did valiant work as ambulance drivers, including three of our missionary workers. These two raids disorganised the life of the city, and almost paralysed the port, so willing people had to turn their hands to all kinds of unusual work. At one juncture five clergy were at work in a hospital laundry, while another with a group of University students scrubbed blood-stained floors. Others assisted with canteens and A.R.P. From Christmas onwards there were constant air-raid alarms, but the R.A.F. and the American Volunteer Group from China prevented any further big raids on the city.
Meanwhile the Japanese had crossed the frontier from Thailand and moved up to take Moulmein. A few days later they crossed the Salween, cutting off the Kappali mission from the rest of us. With the fall of Singapore, preceded as it was by Pearl Harbour and other naval reverses, the fate of Burma was sealed.
On February 19th I was out in the Delta conferring with the clergy and teachers as to what should be done if the worst happened. The scene will always live in my memory. We were squatting cross-legged on the floor of the mission house at Nyaung-ngu, half-a-dozen priests and a dozen men and women teachers. The first question to be settled was what the missionaries should do. I explained that we men were ready to stay if the meeting felt it was right to do so. Ma Pwa Sein, the stalwart headmistress of S. Mary's, Kemmendine, which had transferred to the Delta at the out break of war, was very emphatic that we should not fall into the hands of the Japanese. Another speaker said that our presence would only draw attention and suspicion to their villages. The tension was relieved by Own Bwint, our senior Karen priest. With a kindly and humorous look at me he said, "Well, we could dress you in Burmese clothes, we could darken your skin and dye your hair. You speak Burmese well enough. But we could do nothing with that English nose of yours."
The meeting decided that the missionaries should move to Upper Burma. "You won't be far away," they said, "and maybe we can keep in touch up the river. But you [13/14] will be safe, and our hearts will be at peace." They knew that the Japanese were bitterly hostile to British and Americans.
So we passed on to the next business. What was to be done with the Buddhist girls in the Teachers' Training Classes? Somehow they must be got back to their homes. So men teachers from the village school were detailed to set off that same evening to conduct the Delta girls to their home villages. Others from homes beyond Rangoon were to go with me on the night steamer to Rangoon.
What about Holy Communion? In the villages rice is the staple food; there is no bread or flour, and wine has to be imported. What was to be done when the small stocks were exhausted? We decided that if the elements ordained by our Lord were not available, we would trust the Holy Spirit to make other elements as effectual. So we would use grains of boiled rice and tea or water or coconut milk.
What about the support of the clergy? I had been able to leave £150 with them, and had paid up all school salaries. When that was exhausted the support of the clergy was to be the first charge on all Church offerings; Christian families were to help in kind; clergy were to work in the fields if necessary.
Across the river at Pedaw, Evelyn Websper was conferring with her small band of jungle nurses. Plans were made to carry on as well as possible, medicines and drugs were shared out, and a sum of money was left for future needs.
In the evening we gathered to wait for the steamer. Twenty or so of us scrambled on to an already crowded river steamer, which waited in mid-stream while we pulled out to it in sampans and canoes. Darkness had fallen, and I can see now the shadowy crowds on the bank, waving lanterns and calling out blessings and good wishes. Neither they nor we realised that it was farewell, though we had our misgivings. Yet it was, for when we docked at Rangoon next morning, civil evacuation was already under way, and the wharves were black with excited refugees, who insisted on crowding on to the boat before we could get off. Our party was quiet and united and, hailing a passing sampan, we rowed a hundred yards upstream and landed at an empty jetty.
 Hugh Wilson, who was in charge of the diocese while the Bishop was in America recovering from his severe motor accident, had been busy since Christmas evacuating diocesan schools, reposting European clergy to places where they wee most needed, making prompt and courageous decisions. Higgie (Archdeacon Higginbotham) had been his usual untiring and energetic self. On February 20 they managed to get the last of our women workers safely out of Rangoon. As far as we could see all our folk were safely away, both native and British.
During the two months between the fall of Rangoon and our final evacuation to India, mission workers were all engaged in vital tasks of relief or helping to organise large crowds of people for evacuation. At Maymyo three of them took charge of two convalescent homes for British troops, most of whom had had to be discharged from hospital before they were really fit, to make room for incoming casualties. Another party took charge of the large air evacuation camp at Shwebo. Four of our clergy were already enrolled as chaplains, and most of the others were doing what they could for the spiritual welfare of the troops. The other Christian bodies, notably the Baptists and Salvation Army, were doing equally good work.
The war gradually moved north: Prome and Toungoo, both S.P.G. strongholds, fell; Mandalay became a great hospital and refugee centre, and there was more than enough to keep everyone busy. On Good Friday, Mandalay was severely bombed and fires raged for days afterwards. Rosina Simmonds at the Children's Hospital, with her nurses reinforced by missionaries, did valiant work. The clergy were never free for a moment--visiting the military hospitals, fighting the fires, organising evacuation not only of British, Anglo-Burmans and Indians for India, but also of their own local Christians for jungle villages away from the main lines of communication.
Never did we think that we should have to evacuate Burma completely. But in early May a Japanese army broke through from Mawchi (east of Toungoo) to Taung-gyi and on to the China Road. The campaign was virtually over. The army continued its fighting retreat through the Chindwin valley and finally crossed the frontier into India on May 15; it had held up the Japanese until the rains [15/16] and saved India from invasion. Thousands of refugees, civil and military, made their way through the jungle routes into India, 20,000 of them going through the Hukawng Valley, a heart-breaking journey anywhen, but a ghastly business just as the rains were breaking. At least 5000 must have died on this route, including almost the whole of a party of diocesan orphans who, by a tragic series of accidents, had not been able to get away earlier. With them was John Derry, an Anglo-Burman priest, an old student of Holy Cross College. His early life had been spent as a farmer, and later he had become a motor mechanic. He never attained any great literary ability, and his answers to examination papers never went beyond half-a-dozen lines per question, but they always had the heart of the matter in them. He was a simple and direct Christian with a childlike spirit, a natural citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Many stories can be told of the trek to India. Two missionaries have told of their experiences in the Hukawng Valley--George Tidey in Trek from Burma (S.P.G.) and Dr. Russell in Muddy Exodus (B.C.M.S.). Others could tell similar stories of courage and heroism, of camp prayers before setting out on the hard day's march, and of evening thanksgiving at the end of the day, sometimes under a tree in the pouring rain.
One simple story will show how hardships brought God nearer to two men. A party of some 500 people were moving over a high pass on one of the lesser known routes in the north. Provisions were exhausted, and unless help arrived in the next twenty-four hours it looked as if the whole party would perish. At dawn on this last day, two of the party were sent ahead--a Frontier Officer and a tea planter--to push on in the hope of finding a village or getting into contact with the rescue parties which were being sent out by the Assam tea planters. They struggled on through rain and mud for some hours, until in the late afternoon one of them thought he saw a thin wisp of smoke rising from the wooded bank of a stream down in the valley. With anxious hearts they hurried on as fast as their weary limbs would carry them, and found a small native village. Messengers were sent back to the main body, and others forward to the rescue party, said to be a few miles ahead. As the sun set the two men were sitting on the verandah [16/17] of a bamboo hut, refreshed and fed, their hearts at peace.
Each was thinking of his family somewhere in India.
"Do you know what I feel like doing?" asked one of them, after a long silence.
"I feel like getting down on my knees and thanking God."
"Why don't you?"
"Well . . . I haven't prayed for years, and it seems a bit mean to do so now. And, in any case, what about you?"
"Oh, I was down on my knees an hour ago," came the quiet reply.
A highly inaccurate picture of Burma during the invasion months has been presented by war correspondents, most of whom had little real knowledge of the people or the country, and were quickly in and quickly out of Burma. A notable exception, however, was George Rodgers in Red Moon Rising, whose sober text was illustrated by a collection of magnificent photographs.
The army which fought such a splendid fighting retreat naturally had a rather jaundiced view of the campaign. At the time Britain was so pre-ocdupied in fighting for her very existence in the West, and in helping hard-pressed Russia, that she was unable to spare the necessary men, tanks and planes to fulfil her responsibility for Burma's defence. Most of the troops engaged in the campaign had only just reached Burma, they knew very little about the people of the country, they were not adequately equipped with interpreters, and most of them could not distinguish between Burmans, Chinese, Japanese and Gurkhas. Add to this the fact that the Japanese were extremely clever at disguising themselves as Burmans or Buddhist monks, and we can understand the difficulties. Small wonder that our men felt that the people they were fighting to defend were against them. There certainly was a small minority of people who welcomed the Japanese, but these were mainly violent nationalists or bad-hats. But there was scarcely any more railway sabotage then in peace-time, and no fifth column activity behind our lines. The truth is that the greater part of the nation consisted of simple village folk, who knew little of what was going on and only [17/18] wanted to be left in peace to grow their rice and get a good price for it. They were puzzled and disturbed at the coming of war and the withdrawal of their British friends. Completely loyal to us was a large body of officials, most of whom continued faithfully at their work right up to the end. Not a single Minister ratted; two of them even accompanied the Governor to India.
The diocese suffered heavily in the evacuation. Ada Tilly, a talented young Anglo-Burman teacher, was killed at Pyinmana when the Japanese bombed a trainload of evacuees. She was taking a party of school girls to Upper Burma.
Ted Turner, having settled his blind people in villages off the main routes, was driving to Shwebo when he was attacked by dacoits and almost hacked to death. He only escaped by feigning death, and later crawling into a drain pipe under the road, where a military patrol found him and took him to Shwebo hospital.
Two Tamil priests, Padres Joseph and Swamidass, stayed at Mandalay until the last of their flock had gone. They then started on the long trek to India, but died on the way from exhaustion.
Vick Kemp, the senior priest of the diocese, who came out to Burma as an S.P.G. missionary in 1903, was working at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands when war came. He stayed behind with the rearguard of the garrison, and has spent over three years in a P.O.W. camp somewhere in Burma, where he ministered to his fellow prisoners. He was one of the last to be liberated, but is now safely in India with his wife, whose quiet courage and trust have been an inspiration.
Archdeacon Higginbotham stayed at Sahmaw, where there was a great crowd of refugees needing leadership and discipline. He did magnificent work supplying this and driving a light railway engine up and down the line collecting scattered groups of evacuees. By the time the Japanese reached Sahmaw, Higgie was tired out, developed a heavy cold, and finally died of pneumonia. His body was buried in the compound of the little church there.
Lilian Bald also died in the Hukawng Valley with all but one of her party of orphan girls. Her last letter, written [18/19] just before the end, will go down as one of the treasured records of the diocese. It concludes:--
"We have trekked 256 miles and are still 100 miles from the railhead in India. More often than not we live on one meal a day, of watery rice, as this is the only way we can make the supply go far. 60 per cent, of us have tummy-trouble, sores, bad colds or fevers; 7 of our girls have malaria. We have had a very hard journey so far, steep precipitous mountain climbing in the pouring rain, through dense tropical jungle infested with wild animals; across dangereus rapids, walking through paddy fields and ditches waist-deep in water and ploughing through the jungle path often thigh-deep. God has indeed been with us at every step of our journey. On an average we do six miles a day. We have slept in the jungle without shelter, and with highly decayed corpses around us . . . . We are staying put in this village as (1) 300 Chinese bandits are trekking into Burma this way; (2) most of us feel we cannot walk on any more. We are all on the verge of physical collapse. Believe me we cannot do any more. Most of the children are sans blanket, sans shoes, sans change of clothes. Trusting you will remember us in your prayers..."
Looking back, I feel that it was a mistake for all of us missionaries to come out as we did. If it was a mistake, it dated back to our leaving Rangoon. We never thought that we should have to leave Burma altogether, but gradually we were pushed further and further north until we were completely separated from our people, and the only thing left for us to do seemed to be to cross over into India. Yet it was a mistake made in all sincerity, and later pages of this little book will show how God was working to bring good out of it all.
III. UNDER THE JAPANESE.
On the whole it can be said that the Japanese behaved well in Burma, their object being to impress the people and enlist them in Japan's effort to control Greater East Asia. In many cases they restrained the violent element among the Burmans from discrimination against Christians and non-Burman groups. Stories have been told of Japanese Christians joining in worship with small Christian groups. A Christian officer in Myitkyina behaved with great consideration towards peaceful people. A Japanese private, asked by some Christians why he and his countrymen invaded other countries, said that many of them did not want to do so, but they felt obliged to obey their Emperor's orders. In the retreat in the extreme north a party of younger diocesan orphans were befriended by a Roman Catholic priest. They had been given seventy bags of rice and Rs. 2,000 by a British official; the rice was looted by Chinese soldiers, who somehow overlooked the money. Later the Japanese army came along and took the Rs. 2,000. The Father went to see the officer in charge, and he restored the money, and next morning sent an envelope to the priest containing a ten rupee note and a slip of paper with the words, "For the orphans." The Japanese soldiers generally were said to be fond of children; possibly they thought of their own children in the homeland, whom most of them were never to see again.
But in spite of good discipline generally and a number of decent folk among them, the Japanese were not able to hide their real intentions. They were out for world domination, and in spite of their propaganda about CoProsperity, Greater East Asia, and being fellow-Buddhists, they could not hide their feelings of being superior to other races. To them the people of Burma were tools to advance the Japanese war effort, and they boasted to the other occupied countries that they had made the Burmese into one vast sweat army. Forced labour was one of the things which the Burmese hated most; another was the Japanese habit of face-slapping in public. A Japanese private might slap the face of even a high Burmese official if he felt like it.
 Economically, Burma was ruined, for it always depended on its exports--rice, oil, timber, silver, lead, tungsten--for its prosperity. The Japanese were unable to take over the large surplus rice stocks for export to Japan, although their army, amounting at one time to eleven divisions, was fed on the country. Cloth became scarce, for Burma produces very little cotton, and that little was commandeered. The result was that the people, who always liked to dress well, were in many cases reduced almost to rags. Medicines and drugs became very scarce, and disease increased, aggravated by malnutrition and lack of health services. There was plenty of rice and salt in the south, but no means of transporting it to Upper Burma, which went short. There was plenty of cooking oil in central Burma, but a scarcity in the south. In the hills all food was scarce. Everywhere kerosine and candles were rare, and soap almost nonexistent. Cotton thread was sold in the bazaars by the yard, and thorns were used for needles. The people felt the effects of the war all the more severely, as in peace-time the standard of living had been comparatively high. In addition they heard no news from the outside world, but only the sponsored accounts of successive Japanese victories. They were, of course, forbidden to listen to outside broadcasts, and all wireless sets were called in and altered to receive only Japanese wave-lengths. A whole system of Fascist control was forced upon them, which extended from Dictator Ba Maw down to groups of ten houses. There was an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion everywhere, so that people were afraid to speak freely even in their own homes.
Education practically ceased, though in many Christian villages the teachers carried on without salaries, supported, to some extent, by contributions in kind from the parents. The University re-opened after some months, but with barely a tenth of its pre-war students. It was interesting to learn from a Burmese newspaper smuggled out of the country, that in a new University Council appointed by Ba Maw, five out of its ten members were Christians.
Christians shared all these hardships and humiliations with the rest of the nation; in addition, they were naturally suspect as being friends of the Western missionaries. Generally they were not allowed to meet for corporate [21/22] worship, except in the case of a few national groups among the Baptists, who had been self-managing and self-supporting for many years. In the towns, churches were taken over and used as store-houses, stables and factories, and all their furniture and fittings were looted. In the villages--and the great majority of Christians lived in village--life was easier, for the Japanese only made occasional visits to commandeer rice or impress labour. Here priest and people went on quietly in isolated groups; there was little opportunity for the corporate life and fellowship of the Church.
During the successful invasion campaign Christians were puzzled and apprehensive. Those in the towns fled to jungle villages off the beaten track; those in the villages did not venture far from their homes, and if war came near, withdrew into deeper jungle. The most difficult period was that between the British withdrawal and the establishment of Japanese law and order. There is always in Burma a comparatively large proportion of bad-hats, more obvious among the Burmans than the other races, who live by their wits and are ready to take any advantage of unsettled conditions. March, April and May, 1942, the three dangerous hot-weather months, when people have little work and are restive under the heat, was a terrible time for many law-abiding and quiet country folk. Dacoits roamed the districts, their hand against almost everyone, but especially against Christians. A large armed band struck through the Delta, and during its progress made a special attack on Nyaung-ngu, the chief S.P.G. centre. Six of our best women teachers were cut to pieces, including Ma Pwa Sein, the valiant headmistress of S. Mary's Teachers' Training School, Kemmendine, which had been transferred to the Delta on the outbreak of the war with Japan. With her died five other teachers--Ma Thit, Esther Sein Thit, Ma E Nyein, Ma Tin Shwe and Hilda. Altogether sixty of our Christians were killed in this Delta massacre most of them were Karens as well as Christians, another reason for their being singled out for attack.
It was at this time that Saya Own Bwint ("Saya" means teacher), our senior Karen priest in the Delta, came forward to plead for understanding and goodwill between Burmans and Karens--a touch of authentic Christianity. Own Bwint is a most loving and lovable person, a great evangelist; [22/23] since the Japanese invasion he has acted as headman of his village, respected by Christians and non-Christians alike for his character and leadership. In another Karen village across the Salween, in the Kappali Mission, another priest undertook similar duties--Taw Mwa, strangely similar to Own Bwint, equally loving and loved, and possibly an even more dynamic evangelist.
The Karens in the hills around Toungoo had given most ready help to our forces as they retreated, and that knowing that they would be left behind to bear the brunt of Japanese reprisals. The reprisals came sure enough, and Christians again were singled out. John Hla Gyaw and Francis Ah Mya, our two outstanding priests in the hills, were arrested and spent five months in a Japanese prison. In an attempt to break his spirit and loyalty Hla Gyaw was from time to time tied up with his hands strung behind him to the roof of his prison. In a letter to a missionary in England he said that the one thing that kept him going in the moments of most intense pain was the thought of how our Lord prayed for those who were nailing Him to the Cross.
In Central Burma our church was small, consisting of a few hardly-won Burmans in and around Mandalay and Shwebo. At Shwebo an attempt was made by Japanese and their Burmese collaborators to stamp out the Christian religion. The latest Christian convert, a man named Peter Ba Shin, baptised only a few months before the invasion, was singled out, the theory being that if he would recant, others would follow. Peter stood firm against imprisonment and torture, and in the end the fruitless attempt was abandoned.
On the whole it can be said that the Christians stood loyally by their faith, the Karens almost to a man, the Burmans with some failures. The main fact that emerges is the faithfulness of the clergy--Burmans, Karens and Chins alike. We knew that the Karens and Chins would stand firm, we hoped that the Burmans would; confidence and hope have been equally justified.
The adventures of two Burman priests are worth recording. Henry Ba Tet started life as a sub-inspector of police--a difficult job for anyone who had the right ideas about [23/24] bribery and corruption. He resigned from the police to be trained for the ministry, and when the invasion came he was the parish priest of Prome. When the war enveloped Prome he saw his flock safely away and then withdrew to a jungle village. Here he was hunted out by Burman bad hats, was denounced by some of his own flock as a British traitor, but managed to escape. Later he decided to move south to Rangoon to shepherd the Christians who had drifted back to the suburbs. Sunday by Sunday he celebrated the Eucharist in different Christian homes, the food for himself and his family being provided by grateful Christians. He even went to Ba Maw, the Burmese Dictator, and asked that Christian churches should be handed back for worship. When the Rev. Donald Moxon, who had served as a chaplain all through the war, entered Rangoon with the liberating British forces, he dashed up to Holy Cross to make contact with a Burmese priest who was said to be there. As he approached the little wooden church he heard the sound of singing, and on entering he found Henry and his family at their daily Evenscng, Henry in his threadbare cassock and not very white surplice, evidence of the famine of cloth and soap, but evidence also that there was no famine of true religion.
John Aung Hla, one of our youngest priests, was himself the son of a priest. When the war came to Burma he was the parish priest of Christ Church, Mandalay, and after the first shock of the British defeat and the Japanese occupation, he began to collect and shepherd the scattered Christians in and around Mandalay. In spite of a Japanese census of all Christians and the disapproval of the hated Japanese military police ("You Chreestians no good; you pray God send back the English"), he held regular Sunday services in private houses, and at the patronal festival of the Transfiguration in 1942 there were over forty communicants. Later John heard that there were Christians in Maymyo needing priestly care, so he visited them regularly. At one time he was visiting twenty-one villages in turn, and celebrated the Holy Communion in different places every day for four consecutive months. At Maymyo there was a large internment camp for Anglo-Burmans: one of them, in a letter written immediately after the arrival of the liberating troops, speaks of the severe [24/25] hardships undergone, and adds, "Thank God we had a faithful priest who came to take services every week. His name is John Aung Hla." So a Burmese priest administered to British and Anglo-Burmans, and an older colleague, Isaac Chit Aye, cared for the Indian Christians around Maymyo and Mandalay.
Among the Chins around Prome there were two young Chin priests. Ja Bu spent a time in a Japanese prison. Maung Pay made a regular round of the Christian villages, and even travelled south to attend a Bible Conference arranged by Dr. Ba Han, the Baptist brother of Ba Maw, the puppet dictator, who had himself once been a Christian.
Missionaries safe in India heard these accounts with humility and deep thankfulness. We had been trying to do all that we could to help. The Bible Society reprinted Burmese, Karen and Kachin scriptures; the Christian Literature Society printed booklets of encouraging texts from the Bible, Kachin school readers, as well as union hymn books, and these, with Gospels on India paper, were sent in whenever there was a chance; some were even dropped from the air.
Representatives of the different denominations met in India, and real progress was made in understanding, as well as in plans for joint work in relief measures, education and health services, when we got back.
One of the most urgent tasks was to prepare the Allied Army for the liberation of Burma, and in this missionaries were able to take a share by giving talks to troops and explaining the true character of the people. One S.P.G. missionary was joint editor of a series of Burma pamphlets, and wrote two small handbooks on the language, one of which, entitled Rubbing along in Burmese, was adopted by the army, and 75,000 copies distributed to troops intended for the liberation campaign. A B.C.M.S. missionary became adviser on Kachin matters to the U.S. Office of War Information, which also had the services of a number of American missionaries. An S.P.G. woman missionary spent the waiting years as a sister in an Indian military hospital near the Burma frontier.
Brayton Case, an American Baptist missionary, a man of great heart and tremendous energy, went into Burma [25/26] as an adviser with the American army and organised agricultural work among the Kachins. He actually spent Christmas 1942 in a Christian village in Japanese occupied territory. People came unobtrusively from many villages around, there was the usual communal feeding, though food was scarce and salt cost fifteen shillings for a cigarette tinful, simple presents were given, and a Karen choir from the hills further south led the singing--and the Karens can rival the negroes in their singing!
Six of our diocesan clergy were serving as chaplains, including John Matthew, a young Indo-Burman. His has been a remarkable achievement. The child of an Indian Moslem father and a Burman Buddhist mother, he was educated at S. Matthew's School, Moulmein, up to the seventh standard, and then came to Holy Cross. After ordination he was for a time assistant curate at the Cathedral, and during the war-months did a splendid job of A.R.P. He came to India with us, and after a while became a chaplain to British Chindits. He has won the affection and respect of all his men, has helped to make their relationship with the Burmese people a happy one, and has been the first of us exiles to greet old Christian friends in Burma.
Not all Burma was occupied by the Japanese: a small portion of Arakan, the Somra Tract along the lower reaches of the Chindwin, and the Fort Hertz Valley down to Sumprabum remained in British hands. The Chins and Kachins were completely loyal, and organised a resistance movement in occupied areas which rivals that of the French Forces of the Interior. There are a considerable number of Christians in both these hill races; a number of them came to India with the British troops in 1942, many more of them enlisted in the Levies. Roman priests, in most cases French, Irish and Italian, remained behind in Burma during the evacuation and continued their pastoral and educational work until they were finally interned by [26/27] the Japanese. Roman priests did excellent work among the Kachins, some of them distributing the Kachin gospels and school readers already mentioned. I have talked with some of them and heard thrilling stories of Kachin loyalty; and have been touched by their gratitude for friendliness. Surely Burma, after the war, will have a new spirit of unity among her missionaries and Christians!
In February, 1943, Wingate made his first long-range penetration into North Burma, cut the railway in seventy places and crossed the Irrawaddy. These raiders maintained contact with their base by wireless, and were supplied by air. Their guides and interpreters were Anglo-Burmans, Karens, Kachins and Burmans. They were splendidly received by the villagers wherever they went, although the Japanese took brutal revenge afterwards on all who had welcomed them. This expedition, in addition to proving a new method of jungle warfare, did another great thing for British troops, it convinced them of the friendliness of the people of Burma, for many of them who had fought through the 1942 campaign had prejudiced memories of those hard days. In this first Wingate expedition many Christian Karens took part. Bernard Fergusson, who was in charge of one of Wingate's columns, pays this tribute to them in his epic account, Beyond the Chindwin: "These men form the bulk of the Burma Rifles, and my platoon consisted entirely of them. . . . Nobody who has served with Karens could fail to like them. Thoroughly biddable, and mostly Christians (to a degree which would put to shame most people who profess and call themselves such), they make admirable soldiers,--intelligent, willing, energetic, brave. . . . Billy, the Havildar-Major, was a tiny, wizened man, always smiling and very devout, who never went to sleep without first singing softly to himself all three verses of 'Jesus loves me, this I know.' He was a particular favourite among the British troops."
The early months of 1944 saw two further Allied successes. In February the Japanese made a great effort to surround a British and Indian force in Arakan, but the result was a resounding victory for our men, who had indeed been cut off for some days, but supplied by air. Fighting with tremendous courage, they turned the tables [27/28] completely. Meanwhile, General Stilwell advanced up the Hukawng Valley with American-trained Chinese troops. To aid him, a large air-borne force of Chindits was landed on the wide bend of the Irrawaddy between Bhamo and Katha. Two S.P.G. men accompanied this force as chaplains--David Patterson and John Matthew. Unfortunately David was killed when his glider made a crash-landing. He had served since the outbreak of the war with Japan. His quiet friendliness, calm courage and sense of humour endeared him to all, Burmans and British alike. His death is a great loss. In a letter written just before this last trip he asked the Bishop to act as his next-of-kin, mentioned a small legacy to the diocese, and added that he hoped to benefit the Church in Burma with many years of service rather than with a paltry sum of money.
Large parts of Upper Burma began to be liberated, including mission districts of the B.C.M.S. Bill Crittle, the Field Secretary, was able to visit the Kamaing-Mogaung area in his capacity as a worker of the U.S. O.W.I. [Office of War Information.] He found that Christians had stood firmly by their faith and practice; only one family had lapsed, and that had been very weak, even in the best of times. Christians had been compelled to give up meetings for corporate worship, but still kept up small prayer meetings in houses. The care with which Christians had treasured their Bibles, prayer and hymn books, was very touching.
Military chaplains moved in with the troops, and news of the Christian community came to us through them. Letters from one of them told of Mohnyin, another B.C.M.S. centre, where the nurses from the Mandalay Children's Hospital had settled. One of these had married an Indian Christian doctor, and together they worked for the sick and wounded, although badly handicapped by the lack of medicines. In a nearby village girls of the Mission to the Blind had been settled before the final evacuation; they continued with their weaving, and a recent army photograph shows them at work at their looms, surrounded by admiring soldiers and villagers.
About this time, Brayton Case, the American Baptist missionary, lost his life. He had been touring in the [28/29] liberated areas trying to get agriculture going again. Proceeding up a flooded stream flowing into the Indaw-gyi Lake with a heavy load of paddy (rice) seed, the boat capsized, and Case was thrown into the water and drowned. He had lived most of his sixty years in Burma, being the son of missionary parents. He built up the Agricultural Trading School at Pyinmana, spoke Burmese like a Burman, and was an out-and-out evangelist. One was always conscious of him as a great Christian; only later did you become conscious of his denominational affiliation.
Meanwhile another force was moving into Burma down the Kabaw and Chindwin valleys. This force had victoriously met the heavy attack on the plain of Imphal, some of its men had been in the gallant defence of Kohima. Now they were pursuing the defeated Japanese, undeterred by mud and rain, mosquitoes and leeches, dysentery and malaria. As they moved into Burma they came into touch with Christian groups, at first mainly Baptists and Methodists. In many cases the village pastor or teacher would seek out the military chaplain and invite soldiers to join in their services. In one Lushai village the pastor announced that a special service of thanksgiving for liberation was being held, and asked the chaplain, a B.C.M.S. missionary, to attend with a party of men. At the end of the service the villagers asked their Western brethren to sing an anthem. This caused some consternation, but after whispered persuasion from the chaplain the British party stood up and managed to sing three verses of "The Church's one Foundation." They were rather pleased with their effort, for two of the party were able to sing bass and two others improvised the tenor. As they sat down one of the men suggested a return item from the villagers. Whereupon the village choir got up and sang the Hallelujah Chorus--in English!
The first S.P.G. station was liberated in January, 1944, when British troops entered Shwebo. Two Burmese priests, Po Loo and Chit Htway, had carried on quietly and faithfully, in spite of great difficulties. The splendid mission buildings erected by the veteran missionary Stockings, were almost undamaged and were taken over immediately as headquarters of the Civil Affairs Service (military government). The church had been stripped of all its furniture [29/30] and fittings, but the military chaplain, with a body of soldiers, soon had it clean and ready for worship again.
An interesting story is told of a Roman Catholic village near Shwebo, in which the Christians discovered that there was an R.C. chaplain with the troops. They approached him and asked for a Mass of Thanksgiving. By some accident he had got separated from his Communion vessels, but the Christians were not at all disturbed by this news. They went away and returned a short while later, bringing with them the vessels of their own small church, which they had buried at the approach of the Japanese, nearly three years before. The next morning the whole village came to Mass with grateful thanks for their liberation. We are not told what the Gradual was, but it may well have been Psalm 126:--
"When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion: then were we like unto them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter: and our tongue with joy."
In March, 1945, Mandalay and Maymyo were freed; these were both strong Anglican centres. At Mandalay a little group of Burmese Christians had remained near the Winchester Mission; their first question was, "How is Saya-gyi Garrad? Where is he now?" Most of the buildings escaped destruction. Christ Church was stripped inside, like almost all other churches, but strangely enough the font was left. This had been presented by Queen Victoria to the original wooden church built by King Mindon for Dr. Marks. The main building of the Children's Hospital is also undamaged.
While British and Indian troops were besieging Mandalay another column, moving down the Chindwin route, had crossed the Irrawaddy at Pagan, nearly 100 miles further south. Getting a large number of tanks and motor transport across, they moved on to Meiktila, and it was in this central plain that the crucial battle for Burma was fought. Japanese armour and artillery were almost completely destroyed, and the way was now open for the magnificent dash southward. Pyinmana fell, then Toungoo, the headquarters of our Karen mission, then Pegu. Finally troops were landed from the sea and air on either bank of the river south of Rangoon; these moved rapidly up the river and on May 4 the capital was liberated.
 The Karens of the Toungoo hills were among the last to be liberated, for large parties of Japanese tried to retreat through these hills to Siam, and only the final capitulation of Tokyo brought relief to our hard-pressed Christians, who have suffered so severely in both evacuations. They will need much medical relief and help to get village life back to its peace-time activities. But they have tried leaders and faithful priests, and it is not only missionaries who have lost their hearts to these loyal, lovable people, but officers serving with the army. One at least wants to go back to devote his life to them.
One of the most satisfactory things about the advance into Burma has been the friendly welcome given to our troops by all races. The Japanese had given Burma a fictitious independence, and had directed all their propaganda to arousing hatred of the British. But the people of Burma are shrewd, and were soon able to evaluate the issues realistically. A small minority certainly committed themselves completely to the Japanese cause, but the vast majority waited. In most cases the British were still spoken of as "the Government," and Government officials returning with the military were given a great welcome--the familiar deck-chair was brought out again from the rafters of the village house, a pot of tea quickly brewed, and in a few minutes three years had been rolled hack. Far down in the Delta, people everywhere spoke of the British as "our folk" even in the blackest days of the occupation.
As British troops moved through the country the friendliness of the British and Burmese was obvious. The military brought medical skill and stores, clothing and food; people were taken back to their homes; village children crowded on to Jeeps; villagers organised the supply of food and vegetables. There must be nearly a quarter of a million British troops in Burma--Britain's best ambassadors. We need another Rudyard Kipling to chronicle their contacts with the people of Burma. By no-one were they more gratefully welcomed than by the Christians, to whom the brotherhood in Christ's family means more perhaps than it does to us in the West. I have seen letters written by soldiers, describing their visits to village churches and village homes, even giving summaries of the sermons and the first lines of the hymns.
 One of the regular voluntary tasks of the liberating troops was to fit Christian churches for worship again. In several cases the church was almost completely rebuilt, in others fittings and furniture were quickly improvised, and the buildings thoroughly cleaned for a re-dedication service. A service chaplain in Rangoon told how one night in their spare time he had a squad of men at work on the Cathedral, which included one Lieutenant-General, three Brigadiers, two Colonels, four Chaplains, and innumerable other troops, all working with pick and shovel, with their shirts off. "We said a little prayer first, that we might work with all our might and in unity and peace and concord for the restoration of this church that has been defiled at the hands of sinful men, to its former glory and in honour of the Eternal Trinity." In a very real sense it is their church now.
The Bishop returned to Rangoon in July, and his first great function was a service of cleansing for the Cathedral, which had been used by the Japanese as a factory for sauce and "saki" (toddy). The Cathedral was crowded with members of the three Services and Burma Christians, and the Bishop, with his attendants, went in procession round the Cathedral sprinkling blessed water on building and people alike. A few days later another great service was held, this time of thanksgiving for victory. When the service was due to start the electric supply, still uncertain, was not available. Nothing daunted, the military lined up twenty jeeps outside and played their searchlights through the windows, and one jeep was driven into the Cathedral, and from the West-end its headlamps blazed, so that all could follow the service sheets.
At Michaelmas, S. Michael's Church, Kemmendine, held its old-time patronal festival, attended by 400 Christians from Lower Burma. At a memorable meeting the clergy, one by one, told the thrilling story of their doings during the occupation. Later a hundred people were confirmed, including an ardent Buddhist who had been converted through Ma Pwa Sein's martyrdom. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the Church.
The Bishop speaks with great pride of the faithfulness of the Church during its three and a-half years of testing, and of the affectionate welcome he has received from all our people. Missionaries in England, waiting impatiently for passages, are receiving letters from friends and old [32/33] pupils, brimming with affection and longing and promise for great days ahead.
The war is over and Burma has to face the rebuilding of her national life. The Governor, Sir Reginald Dorman Smith and his Government returned to Rangoon in mid-October; a great task awaits them, which will have its difficulties and heartbreaks. There are many dacoits roaming the country, well armed with arms and ammunition left by the Japanese; pent-up nationalism is bursting out in many ways, often violent and self-seeking; a young, eager nation is to be trained for self-government, and the pace is not fast enough for many; there will be wounds to be healed and enmities to be transformed; education is to be set in motion again, medical work restored and extended, trade and industry revived, and there will not be unlimited funds. The years of reconstruction will have to be marked by austerity and effort, with greater reliance on character than on material resources. In this adventurous task of rebuilding the nation's life the Christian Church will have a great part to play.
V. THE TASK AHEAD.
Burma has suffered badly through the war: almost every town of any size has been destroyed, with the exception of Rangoon, which is not badly damaged. Burma's export trade has been completely disorganised: before the war she was the largest rice exporting country in the world, sending over three million tons Overseas annually; 400,000 tons of teak went all over the world each year--many a carpenter in Britain will be glad to welcome back Burma teak; many millions of gallons of petroleum products were also exported. Education has been virtually abandoned for over three years, and during that same period, health services have practically ceased. The country will be bankrupt for some years, and will have to look to Britain for help to balance even an austere budget. It is no exaggeration to say that the whole of Burma's national life will have to be reconstructed.
What part can the Christian Church play in this reconstruction? The Christian population is small, only 400,000 [33/34] out of the total of nearly 17 millions, and only a tiny handful of these belonging to the main race of Burmans. Yet it is true to say that the Christians' influence through education and spiritual leadership is altogether out of proportion to the small numbers. That influence will be immeasurably increased if the Church will accept a greater responsibility for the nation. In the past we have tended to keep rather to ourselves, and not to participate in politics and public affairs. We are learning that Christians ought to take their place in the Legislative Council, in Municipal Committees and District Councils, in nationalist movements even; they ought to take advantage of the opportunity of reaching many people through the press. They ought not to work narrowly for advantages for the Christian community--and as to asking for communal representation for Christians, God forbid--but to work for national unity, honest administration, justice for all; to tackle problems with a view to finding the right solution, and this means trying to weigh everything by the Will of God.
Burma has its own communal difficulties, although they are not so acute as in India, for, as has been said, the population is more homogeneous. But there have always been fears in the minds of the hill races of being swamped by the more politically-minded and vocal people of the plains. The experience of the war will not have made this problem any easier. There are two communities, which are the backbone of the Christian Church--the Anglo-Burmans and the Karens. That part of the Anglo-Burman community which came to India has already made a courageous and generous gesture of trust. Its leaders, meeting in Simla under the chairmanship of the bishop, declared that Anglo-Burmans were people of Burma, and they regarded Burma as their home, and therefore would not ask for special privileges or safeguards. Burman leaders in India responded at once to this gesture, and assured their Anglo-Burman countrymen that they would gladly help to preserve their freedom of worship, culture and ways of life. This spirit should solve most difficulties, but it must be recognised that the Church has a special responsibility for the minorities.
Until the meaning of true democracy is understood in the East, not as merely majority rule, but as the finding of a [34/35] common mind which does justice to all parties, and insists on the value of the individual and the duty to help him to develop to his highest, minorities will always be sacrificed. It is useless to insist on political safeguards; they disappear with the guaranteeing power, and in any case they can always be got round by clever politicians. It is equally useless to talk of separate States or mass migration. The best service we can do to the minorities who depend upon us, is to help them fit themselves to take their place in the national life. Character training and education are the means to this, and these are two things in which the Christian Church should excel. For our own S.P.G. work, I think we must put a first-class school primarily for Anglo-Burmans, and one primarily for the Karens, as No. 1 priorities. I would not suggest that these should be exclusive, but that they should take a limited number of pupils of other races, with a proportion of non-Christians. From these schools there should issue into the national life a stream of young men of such character and calibre that they and their people would be wanted and valued by the majority race.
The hill peoples of the north are in a different position, and the British Government has decided that for some years they shall continue to be under the direct control of the Governor, as they were before the war. But the ultimate aim is a united Burma, and the hill peoples are to be given increased services for health and education, to fit them to take their place with political Burma whenever they decide to do so. Christians have always held that we are all one man in Christ Jesus, and that the only thing that matters is "a new creation"--new attitudes, changed relationships.
The Government has its programme of reconstruction--trade and industry, administration, education, health--planned by British and Burmese officers, who have used well the years of exile in India to think out what they would like to do if they had the opportunity. But it will need vision, courage, disinterested service, discipline, unfailing patience and hope to put even the best plans into operation. These qualities are spiritual, and the spirit of reconstruction must be a pre-eminent responsibility of Christians.
In the past we Christians have tended to look upon Buddhism as our rival for the religious loyalty of the [35/36] people of Burma, and the monks as our chief opponents. Increasingly in the modern world the struggle is not between the accepted religions of men, but between a spiritual outlook on life and a secularist worldly one. Buddhism is a noble way of life, with a founder whom all men may rightly revere, and a standard of ethics which approaches closely to the Christian. I would like to see a spiritual revival of Buddhism so that it became not merely a nationalistic sentiment, as opposed to the religion of the West, but a real dynamic in the daily lives of the people. Let me hasten to add that I do not believe that any man will attain a deep understanding of spiritual truth or a real will to follow it until he has examined and accepted the claims of Jesus Christ. Yet Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil; and if this is true, there are fulfilments in Him whose beginnings and aspirations are to be found in Buddhism. In the past we have set Christians and Buddhists as rivals, we have argued about their respective faiths and practices. The best of Buddhists are pilgrims, like ourselves, seeking--when they are sincere--the good life and the goal of life. The bishop has given us a new approach by treating adherents of other religions as people very like ourselves, with similar aspirations and needs, fighting against the same difficulties and temptations as ourselves--lust, greed, ill-will, fear, and so on.
Looked at from the national point of view the monks are one of the most significant classes of people in the country: it should be our service to them to help them to become a real spiritual force. The majority of them are quiet, sincere men, especially in the villages where many of them are like the village vicar at home--a philosopher and friend to the whole village. In, the reconstruction period the monks will have a vital part to play.
Yet it needs to be clearly stated that there are fundamental differences between Christianity and Buddhism, which cannot be avoided by any seeker after truth. Sooner or later the Buddhist, attracted through this approach, must face the challenge of Christ to his individual loyalty. When he accepts that challenge, will he not find preserved in Christ all that he has found so true and appealing in the Buddha? And as he tries to live the good life held out before him by Buddhism, will he not realise the need of a power outside himself to help him? In short., will he not [36/37] see his own fallen-ness, even at his best, and his need of salvation?
I would like to add a personal note at this point. I am worried at the little progress the Gospel has made; I am equally worried at the desperate need for re-inforcing the national character. I have not yet found the answer to these worries; I am still thinking and trying to find the right way. I also feel that in the past our attitude has been mistaken and that we must begin to think in a new way.
I was interested on a recent visit to Ceylon to find that the Assistant-Bishop Designate, the Rev. Lakhdasa de Mel, was thinking on similar lines about the monks of Ceylon. He has been talking to large gatherings of monks about the future of Ceylon, and found that they were not only ready to listen, but grateful when a Christian took the lead in advancing the spiritual welfare of the country. And when I spoke to the Buddhist Association at Kandy, I found that they were pathetically grateful to find a missionary who tried to appreciate the spiritual side of their religion.
Preaching is no longer the dominating evangelistic activity, although personal witness of the power of Christ to change a man's attitudes and life will always be most powerful. More and more, thinking non-Christians are judging us by our actions, not only as individuals, but as a society, and by the contribution we bring to the national life. It is as we out-think, out-live and out-die our contemporaries that we give our best witness. It is not impossible that in some countries in the East the open preaching of Christ's religion, arid conversion to it, will be forbidden. Christians should have such a quality of life that sooner or later people around them will want to know its source. "By their fruits ye shall know them;" no Christian can complain if other people insist on this criterion.
The external forms of our religion also need to be more indigenous and not unthinking copies of Western things, otherwise they suggest something foreign to Burma. We want to see lovely Christian churches modelled on Buddhist shrines with their graceful seven-tiered spires, decorated with gold-leaf and lacquer, with the altar in the centre under the spire, with mats to sit on, Burmese silver bowls for the offertory, and mellow-toned Burmese bells; and to sweep away the monstrous collection of pulpits, pews, [37/38] faldstools, alms bags, and discarded bells from worn-out steamers! Why not make Confirmation take the place for Christians of the Buddhist shin-pyu (making a holy one), the initiation to the monkhood which every Buddhist boy undergoes, spending some period, short or long, in the monastery? We need a Christian monastery with a rule akin to the Buddhist, where young Christians may come to spend a Lent, or prepare for Confirmation; where older Christians may retire in old age, or stay for a lifetime if they feel so called. Let them be supported by offerings of money and food as in the Buddhist monasteries. Only let them combine work and prayer, as S. Benedict insisted, and so teach their fellow-countrymen the goodness and dignity of labour and service.
So far I have spoken only of the relation of the Christian community to the rest of the nation; there is the equally important inner life to consider. There, it is absolutely vital to recognise that the Church in Burma has reached maturity: it has stood alone, it has suffered. If the flight of missionaries was anything more than a case of "safety first" it must mean that we had substantial hopes that the Church would be able to stand unaided. Experience has shown that Christians came through the test without failing We missionaries can no longer go back as if we had a divine right to authority and control; more and more we shall adapt ourselves to do those jobs which the indigenous Church judges to be in its best interests. There will be for some time yet posts which they are not able to fill from their own ranks, specialist posts in education and medical work, and perhaps in administration. It will be for them to say how they can best use those fellow-workers whom the Church in the West sends out. For Burma, at any rate, what little distinction there was between Mission and Church will have become very blurred.
Nor should we imagine for a moment that we are going back to restore things as they were before, this mission or that school, under the same person, on the old lines. Some of our buildings will have been destroyed, but even where buildings are still in good condition that is no reason in itself for continuing as before the war. The Bishop's plan for our return is that we should go back as a band of fellow-pioneers, ready for anything, but demanding nothing for ourselves, knowing how to preserve our inner unity even [38/39] when we disagree. As with our well-tried national Christians we survey the scene, we can seek a strategy from the mind of God, and decide who best can carry it out, the rest of us making that man's work our own by our interest and prayer. There is a breath of the New Testament about this conception, which may well blow into a mighty rushing wind, filling the whole land where we are living.
So we missionaries should not go back with finished blueprints for the Church of the future. These can only be drawn in the fullest co-operation with Christian nationals. We can, however, offer them the fruits of our thinking and prayer while we have been in exile. But we shall want to know much more eagerly what they have learnt from the experience of the last three years. They will certainly have learnt a great deal in the matter of Church support, and it is important that these and other lessons should not be thrown away by kind-hearted but short-sighted missionaries. It has been suggested that native workers should be paid up their salaries for the whole period while we have been away. Would not this make them nothing more than the paid agents of a Missionary Society in Britain? Let us see that every real need is met--as S.P.G. insisted on doing when we missionaries arrived in India, many of us with just the clothes we were wearing; but don't let us do anything which will arrest the progress already achieved, much of it through difficult and painful experience.
Several of the native clergy have spoken of the generous support of the lay folk during the war years, how, when money or stores of food were not available to offer them, the Christians would invite them and their families into their own homes to share their meals. The Bishop, in a recent letter, spoke of the gratitude of the clergy for the financial help he was able to give them: "they were most reluctant to take it," he said, "and not a word was mentioned about regular salaries."
There will also be real advance in the matter of Church unity, especially as indigenous Christians do not value our denominational differences as much as we do. The stress of war and the need of mutual encouragement will have brought out the implication of a common faith and fellowship. We missionaries, too, have learnt new things, for in the months of war and evacuation we were thrown together [39/40] much more intimately. In the early months of 1942, S.P.G. people moving northward came into closer contact with B.C.M.S. folk, and each gained a deeper respect and affection for the other. In India, through the Burma Christian Council, we have done a good deal of thinking together and seen possibilities of joint work in education and medical services when we get back. It is possible that the Church in Burma will move towards unity in a new way, namely, by denominations thinking and working together rather than by drawing up a formal scheme of union.
Whatever else we do, the training of leaders must be our main aim--clergy for the Ministry, teachers for education, doctors and nurses for health work. The time is past when missionaries had to do everything that had to be done. It is a good and satisfying thing to settle down in a village district, be a faithful pastor or evangelist or a nurse to the many sick needing care; to train a dozen others of the country to do it is better. During my first year in Burma, John R. Mott came to Rangoon; of all that he said I remember one thing especially: "The training of leaders is evangelism by multiplication rather than by addition." It is only in recent years that I have learnt how true that statement is.
One of our weaknesses in Burma--and this applies to all denominations, though the Baptists were ahead of the rest of us--was that we had not trained nationals in administrative posts, so that when the foreign workers left, the corporate and administrative work could not be carried on as usual. In future, if the chief posts cannot be filled by people of the country, a national should be linked with the oversea worker, so that he can understand the work and take full responsibility at the earliest possible moment. The Bishop's recent appointment of the Rev. John Ella Gyaw and the Rev. John Aung Hla as archdeacons, and of the Rev. Luke Po Kun as a canon of the Cathedral, is a splendid start to the devolution of the higher posts of authority and administration. In countries within the British Commonwealth it will be the task of people from Britain to train nationals to take their place, not only in missions, but in government, industry and commerce as well. This will not be an easy task and will need a real Christian spirit to accomplish it.
This last thought shows the vital importance of pastoral [40/41] work among our own people overseas. British Christians in Burma are, whether they like it or not, the most telling witnesses to the power or lack of power of the Christian religion, and "chaplaincy work," as we call it, assumes a new importance. In the past we have often distinguished between chaplaincy and missionary work; that distinction must go. If it does not go before, it will certainly go when Establishment Chaplains and Chaplaincy Grants are withdrawn, as they may quite well be in the near future. I do not think that we can in any way claim that help as a right from a country which is largely non-Christian. If the Government and people of Burma decide that these grants should be withdrawn, I for one would accept that decision without protest. On the other hand, if they decide to continue them, I would like both Government and people to feel that they are getting full returns in spiritual leadership, so that the effect of Government Chaplains would be that Government servants would he better, more unselfish people, and that non-Christians would feel that in them they had a body of men who, through their influence on all classes, were not an extra burden on the nation's finance, but a real asset on the spiritual and moral fronts.
Increasingly in the modern world Governments are wanting to control education and welfare work, both from the point of view of influencing the minds of people, especially the young, and also for the credit which may redound to them. Government educationists in Burma are eager to have one State-controlled system of education: this would result in the abolition of the former practice of grants-in-aid to approved schools sponsored by other bodies, such as Missionary Societies. They are prepared, however, to allow such schools to continue as long as the bodies concerned can finance them, and as long as they conform to certain standards of education and hygiene. In this connection, I think it is important to recognise that education is a responsibility of the Government, and that we wish to help them fulfil that responsibility. There has always been the subtle danger of thinking that it should be the other way round, especially when missions have taken such a big share in education.
The new system would mean that Christians would not be able to afford nearly as many schools as before; even if all denominations co-operated in union high schools, or had [41/42] an agreed plan by which the school in this or that district should be under the control of one body, but cater for all Christian children, we should not be able to have more than four or five high schools. But this would not necessarily be the tragedy that it might seem at first. It would mean that we could concentrate our best Christian staff, missionary and national, in a few really good schools, free from Government control and red tape, and free from political jealousy and interference. We could insist on, say, 75 per cent. Christian pupils, and train them for posts of leadership in Church and nation, together with a small proportion of non-Christian pupils. We could call for sacrifice on the part of Christian teachers and parents. The Anglo-Burman community has already pledged itself to sacrifice to ensure the continuance of at least a few definitely Christian schools.
Whatever happens, we must have as many Christian schools as possible, and we must make provision for the religious training of our children who cannot go to our own schools. The Government proposes to allow monks and recognised religious teachers to go into State schools to give religious training to children of their own persuasion. Our clergy and workers must be trained to take full advantage of this.
For some years before the war the training of Anglo-Vernacular teachers had been taken over by Government, and it is almost certain that the training of vernacular teachers will be similarly treated. This, in my opinion, would be a pity, for the Church has much to give the country in anything that concerns rural life. I would press that it should have at least one rural teachers' training college, in which it should aim at setting a pattern for the whole country.
Government plans for the University contemplate a similar State control which would mean the end of Judson College as a constituent college of the University. Lying behind this proposal is the intention to concentrate the control of all the teaching under the University rather than the colleges, and to this extent the plan would seem sound. But this could be done without abolishing Judson College, which, to my mind, would be short-sighted and ungrateful: ungrateful because the American Baptist Mission has for generations rendered invaluable service to the cause of [42/43] higher education, and short-sighted because Judson College has provided a corporate life for its students and a personal care for them which the rest of the University students have not had. Final decision on the future of Judson College, as well as on the question of grants-in-aid, has been deferred by Government until the return to Burma, when the opinion of Burmese people can be consulted.
If Judson College continues, the American Baptist Mission have proposed that it should become a united Christian college, with the other non-Roman bodies sharing in its staffing, governing body and support. This is a generous offer, and S.P.G. workers are agreed in recommending its acceptance to the home society. If the newly-instituted Judson College can also sponsor the sympathetic study of Buddhism and Burmese culture, it will be doing a great service not only to the Christian Church, but to Burma and Buddhism generally. Not only will missionaries gain a deeper insight into Buddhism and learn to see in it a preparation for the fuller revelation of the Christian Gospel, but Buddhists themselves may learn to see in the Gospel the fulfilment of all that is true and best in their own religion. Judson College is the obvious institution to take the lead in such study, and in making a Christian impact on educated and thinking Buddhists, of which there has been woefully little so far.
Missionaries of all denominations are realising the need of more medical work, and they are beginning to recognise it more as an expression of Christ's love than as a method of evangelism. Government has its plans for a big increase in medical services, with the emphasis on prevention rather than cure. Its reconstruction report quotes the statistics one doctor per 15,000 of the population and one hospital bed per 1,700, as against the corresponding figures of 2,000 and 150 for Great Britain, and aims at training more doctors and nurses and providing more generous hospital accommodation. But it is in regard to village health that a great advance is needed, for in the villages there is a sad ignorance of the elementary rules of health and sanitation. It is here that the Church can make its best contribution, not so much in extent, but in pattern. The Burma Christian Council has suggested a scheme for the training of village nurses, developing the plan on which S.P.G. was working. It is suggested that there should be six or seven rural [43/44] training centres, each with doctor and sisters, and a hospital with a well-equipped operating theatre and quarters for training batches of twenty nurses. These nurses, when trained, will go out to a network of village dispensaries, linked up with their hospital by motor or river ambulance. In the majority of cases these training hospitals will be organised by particular missions, though in one or two cases there may be joint staff. A co-ordinated plan, with agreed objective and syllabus, will be of great value, and it is hoped that the medical workers will be given representation on the council which examines and controls nurses throughout the country. The Burma Christian Council is launching an appeal for funds to make this scheme practicable to equip each centre with simple but durable buildings and really good medical equipment will cost something like a lakh of rupees per centre (£7,500), but however much or little is forthcoming, we can make a start, for we can draw on dedicated personnel, both Western and national, and that is always priority number one.
For once and for all we have learnt that money is not the great essential. No, not money, nor buildings, but the right kind of people--Spirit-filled people native clergy, missionaries, village Christians, Government officials and traders, whether from Britain or of Burma. We have our Burma Church Reconstruction Fund and there is no doubt that we shall need money, perhaps more than before. It is good to know that the Church at home and in India is eager to help us: but it would be no tragedy if we had to go back to Burma with nothing but spiritual resources. Before long it would be safe to help us with buildings and money, for we should have learnt the truth proclaimed by an Old Testament prophet of reconstruction "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord."
It was another prophet, planning in exile for national and religious revival, who saw religion as a spring rising under the altar in the Temple and flowing out towards the barren country as a great river. Wherever the river came it brought life and healing; on its banks grew trees, whose never-failing fruit was for food, and whose ever-fresh leaves were for healing. That river stands for the Church of God, and one of its tributaries, fed from the same spring, is the Church of Burma.