The image of Sr. Ann Rose Nu Tawng kneeling before police urging them not to use violence against protesters captured the world’s attention after Burma’s military coup.
The religious sister said Thursday that the Holy Spirit prompted her to kneel between the police and protesters and that she drew her strength from prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
“I deeply felt the action of the Holy Spirit,” she told journalists in Rome via video call from Burma, the Southeast Asian country officially known as Myanmar.
Speaking in Burmese with live translation provided by a priest and a seminarian from Burma on May 13, she said that prayer had been fundamental in sustaining her during this difficult time for her country.
“Even as we are experiencing a moment of persecution, it has really helped me above all to say prayers of praise,” she said.
“Prayer in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has given me this strength. From there, I drew the strength to help the people and to act like this.”
Sr. Ann Rose Nu Tawng is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis Xavier in northern Burma. The video of her kneeling before police officers in the city of Myitkyina on March 8 even touched the pope.
“I too kneel in the streets of Myanmar and say: ‘stop the violence.’ I too stretch out my arms and say: ‘may dialogue prevail,’” Pope Francis said on March 17.
Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, has experienced some of the worst violence as security forces continue to crack down on protesters of the Feb. 1 military coup.
The religious sister said that she views kneeling as a “gesture of reconciliation” that also communicates forgiveness of one’s enemies.
She said that March 8 was the second time that she knelt before the police in this way. Later that day she recalled that she also helped take wounded protesters to the hospital.
“In three months, more than 800 people died,” she said. “I am very worried about the future.”
She spoke at the launch of a new book, “‘Kill me, not the people.’ The courageous nun of Myanmar tells her story,” recently published in Italian by Editrice Missionaria Italiana.
She expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for the many times that he has spoken out about the situation in Burma.
The pope has repeatedly called for harmony in the country, which has a population of 54 million people and borders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. Francis became the first pope to visit the Buddhist majority nation in November 2017.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the archbishop of Yangon, has also provided ongoing support to protesters, while urging the movement to remain “non-violent and peaceful.”
Pope Francis will offer Mass for Rome’s Burmese community in St. Peter’s Basilica May 16.
Fr. Maurice Moe Aung, a member of the Missionaries of Faith Congregation, said that Rome’s Burmese community is made up mostly of students, including members of religious communities.
The priest, originally from Burma, told journalists May 12 that he was worried by the mounting death toll and arrests as protests continue across the country.
May 11 marked 100 days since the Myanmar military seized control of the country in a sudden coup. The United Nations rights office has expressed concern about “gross human rights violations” in the country, where security forces have killed at least 782 people in their attempt to suppress street protests.
“The world must make its voice heard. It must make a more decisive contribution. We cannot wait. We cannot wait or there will be many more deaths,” the priest said.