Born in 1945, Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San, the founding father of the Burmese national army and the negotiator of Burma’s independence from Britain. He was assassinated in 1947, just six months before independence. Her family remained in Burma even after her father’s assassination. Aung San Suu Kyi eventually left for education in India and at Oxford, and then lived in New York City while working for the UN. She returned to Burma in 1988 to attend to her ailing mother. After Burma (also known as Myanmar) fell under the rule of a military junta, she became involved and eventually led the democratic movement in Burma, suffering severe oppression, house arrests (for 15 of the 21 years since her return), and forced separation from her husband, scholar Michael Aris and their children. When he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 1997, he was not granted a visa to visit her and she was afraid to leave the country for fear she would be denied re-entry. He died in 1999; the last time they had seen each other was 1995, despite pleas from UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and Pope John Paul II.
Aung San Suu Kyi has remained faithful to the achievement of her goals by peaceful means in the face of other violent democratic movements. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. To this day, she still has hopes of leading a free Myanmar, despite the hardships and challenges. In her honor, today take a minute to reflect on her words:
“Are we not still guilty, if to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity? War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.”