This year I visited Myanmar, the former Burma, one of the most tightly controlled nations on earth. Local writers told me the capital city has one bookstore—to their knowledge the only bookstore for a population of 50 million. They joked that Myanmar does not have copyright, but "copy left": they rely on foreigners who leave copies behind as their main source of books.

Billboards around town proclaim the "People's Desires" in Stalinesque prose, such as "Report all stooges to the authorities." A troika runs the country with an iron fist, squeezing life out of the economy, stifling religion and the arts, and crushing any moves toward democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has done her best to expose and oppose the brutality of Myanmar's rulers. Daughter of a national hero, she lives under house arrest in Yangon. Whenever she tries to leave, army vehicles blockade her car, creating incidents that attract the international press.

In Myanmar I met with representatives of a small Christian relief organization that helps victims of AIDS. By their estimate, 50,000 AIDS orphans roam the streets of Myanmar, though the government officially denies any problem. Recently the relief workers had visited Aung San Suu Kyi, a bold act that risked retaliation.

"Why are you helping these children?" asked the woman reverentially called "The Lady" by most Burmese. Aid to the needy helps prop up a corrupt regime, she said. They should let conditions grow so intolerable that citizens would rise up in revolt, or the regime would simply collapse.

The relief organization agreed that her argument has a certain logic. Many South Africans supported international sanctions, which harmed people in the short term, in hopes that ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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