This widely circulated photograph of a Catholic nun in a simple white habit, her hands spread, pleading with the Myanmar military as they prepared to crack down on a protest, has won her global praise.
Kneeling before the government forces in a northern Myanmar city, Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng begged a group of heavily armed police officers to spare “the children” and take her life instead.
“I knelt down … begging them not to shoot and torture the children, but to shoot me and kill me instead,” she said on Tuesday.
Her act of bravery in the city of Myitkyina on Monday came as Myanmar struggles with the chaotic aftermath of the military’s overthrow of the civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on February 1. As protests demanding the return of democracy have rolled on, the junta has steadily escalated its use of force, using teargas, water cannon, rubber bullets and live rounds.
“The police were chasing to arrest them and I was worried for the children,” she said.
It was at that point that the 45-year-old nun, who runs a clinic in the town, fell to her knees. “The children panicked and ran to the front … I couldn’t do anything but I was praying for God to save and help the children,” the nun said.
First she saw a man shot in the head fall dead in front of her – then she felt the sting of teargas.
“I felt like the world was crashing,” she said. “I’m very sad it happened as I was begging them.”
Monday was not Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng’s first encounter with the government forces in the Buddhist majority nation. On February 28, she made a similar plea for mercy, walking slowly towards police in riot gear, getting on her knees and pleading for them to stop.
“I have thought myself dead already since 28 February."
On Monday, she was joined by her fellow sisters and the local bishop, who surrounded her as she pleaded for mercy for the protesters. Over 60 people have been killed and more than 1,800 detained in the crackdown on protests against the February military coup.