Burma featured in the news this morning, more political prisoners having been freed, thank God! And last evening we heard our friend Canon Roger Symon give an excellent account of his recent visits to that country. Speaking to a full house in the Cheltenham Junior School Assembly Hall, he described his mission, to arrange an official visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the Burmese Anglican Church. This representative was to be Roger's old boss, George Carey, Rowan Williams' predecessor.
Roger (no spring chicken, he won't mind the description) and his wife came to live in Cheltenham, having served as Secretary of the Anglican Communion between 1986 and 1994, taking the place of the imprisoned Terry Waite. He was brave indeed, therefore, to emerge from retirement to undertake this delicate assignment. For Archbishop Stephen of Burma would clearly rather his high profile party had stayed at home, than come and stir things up by visiting refugee camps and meeting Anglicans, identified by Burma's military rulers as natural sympathisers with the separatist cause.
Still worse were their plans to see Aung San Suu Kyi, whom the Archbishop of Burma had always avoided meeting. He did however send a message via Carey: "We all love her: she is our hope for the future." Having heard this, Daw Suu exclaimed, "No hope without endeavour! Hope is concrete, not just a concept. It has to be gained by practical work."
And thus the way was opened to the first encounter between the Archbishop of Burma and The Lady.