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May 19th, 2010
03:17 PM ET

Christian band: We were spared death by Myanmar general

Bluetree frontman Aaron Boyd sings to children in a Myanmar refugee camp.

They had illegally sneaked into Myanmar knowing full well the danger, but it wasn't completely apparent to the members of the Irish Christian band Bluetree that the screaming general down below the balcony wanted them dead.

They could tell it was a very tense situation. High-ranking members of two different military units were pointing at them and yelling in a language they didn't understand, according to lead singer Aaron Boyd. Their interpreter clammed up and the president of the NGO that had brought the band into the country said, "This is bad. This is really, really bad."

It was only when they left the country and returned to Thailand that the band members were told it was their fates being debated by those troops down below.

"We were told later their general said we're not even going to waste our bullets with them, we're just going to slice their throats," Boyd said Tuesday by telephone from his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland. "Bottom line was our guy, whatever he did, whatever he said, managed to calm the whole thing down."

Bluetree's popularity soared in the United States last year when Chris Tomlin covered its praise song "God of This City" and videos of American Idol winner Kris Allen singing the tune  were posted on YouTube.

Bluetree penned the song after the band went to Thailand and played in a bar that was the gateway to a brothel, with women making deals with customers in plain view. The night also inspired the band to start a charity that tries to save workers from the sex trade. But they can't be philanthropists from afar, Boyd said.

"You need to smell abuse, you need to smell injustice firsthand," he said. "You need to smell the smell of the villages and get it into your body."

So when Christian Freedom International offered the band a chance to minister to Karen Christians in Myanmar, they said yes even though they would be going to an area where Christians are targeted and killed, Boyd said. The conflict between the Myanmar government and the Karen and other ethnic groups such as the Karenni, Mon and Shan is considered by many analysts to be the longest-running civil war in the world.

Many Karen have fled to neighboring Thailand, Boyd said.

Bluetree and the president of Christian Freedom International, Jim Jacobson, whom Boyd said is a wanted man in Myanmar, chose a time when the riverbeds dry up to sneak into the country. They brought food, clothing, Bibles and whiskey–to bribe the militia that, according to Boyd, threaten to burn down Christian villages and kill the men.

They feted the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army with the booze and food to let them access a refugee camp where Blue Tree sang and listened to the children sing some songs, Boyd said.

They could only stay a few hours. Had they been detected by the Myanmar army, they likely would be labeled as spies and executed, according to Boyd.

When the band was on its way back to Thailand, the DKBA general who had allowed their safe passage asked them to come up to his office, Boyd said. While they were there, someone brought a guitar.

"It was definitely surreal, one by one these guys in army combat uniforms start showing up with rocket launchers and grenade launchers, they are totally tooled up to the max ...  and they hand me a guitar," Boyd said. "It was like 'Now you sing.' They didn't ask politely, it was just 'Now you sing.'"

He wasn't able to get one word of "God of This City" out when, he said, members of the Myanmar army came by and saw five white men on the balcony.

Boyd believes the DKBA general offered the army troops part of the bribe to dissuade the military regime's general. The general wanted Jacobson alive, Boyd said.  The general later showed the CFI president the school where his troops' children were being educated. And he asked the Christian missionary for a favor.

"He asked Jim for his help in bringing up his kids," Boyd said. "This from a guy whose mission in life is to kill Christians."

Jacobson and the band members left as quickly as possible, driving the five hours back to Thailand in silence, trying to process what had just happened.

While in Thailand, in a refugee camp in Mae La, the band played a concert for an estimated 20,000 Karen, many of who had heard the tale of the band's incursion into Myanmar.

Boyd said he was moved by a visit with the children, and by one small girl in particular. The 8-year-old pleaded with him, "Please don't ever forget about me. Don't forget me."

The trip was recorded and will be released in July as a DVD documentary, Boyd said. An audio recording of the Karen children is also an added track to a live album the band recorded in Belfast in March.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Buddhism • Christianity • Culture & Science • Music • Politics

soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Heather

    What a bunch of dumb@@@ES Break the laws of another country and be shocked you could have been killed. Meet Jesus even sooner for being so stupid

    February 16, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  2. Greg

    The Lord says this; that Myanmar should consider the words of U Thant in Towards a New Education, should consider how Castro and Cuba have done in the past.

    November 8, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  3. Adam

    They were doing the will of God, Jesus spoke in all kinds of places he wasn't wanted, they survived cause God wanted them to, it was his will not theirs, God was testing their faith, how many other Christians would do this, just think of all Christ went through for you and I and what these people did will seem very small

    June 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  4. Veronica A. Perez

    I'm 16 years old and not to many people think much of people my age or around my age, they don't think we can do anything important because we dont't care enough to do anything, but I heard this story on KLOVE and read the rest and now my thoughts are racing and I know I need to do something even if it's something small. This story is stirring me up inside, so I ask what can I do? If its spreading the word about this then let it be, but if I can do more tell me what it is or at least pray with me so that God will send me a way to help in order to help you help them. :)

    June 5, 2010 at 8:55 am |
    • Andy

      Praise God! Keep praying and our Heavenly Father will definitely guide you on what He wants you to do. Will be praying for you that your faith in Jesus grows!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. PraizeGirl

    Praise the Lord everyone! I just want to commend the band for obeying the lord. In the Word, Jesus tells us to "go out, and spread the gospel to all nations", now understanding that each country is going to be different, the risks are also going to be different, but if you are called to that service, God will make a way, and provide a path for you to deliver His message. God is a right on time God, His Word is everlasting, His love and joy are endless. His mercies are new every day. It is a privelege to be a christian, it is a privelege to spread the gospel and do a work for Him and an honor to be in His service. We are nearing the end times, and all christians need to get prayed up, fasted up, and be willing to go wherever the father is leading and do whatever it is that He wants us to do because one sweet day we know it will be worth it when He says, "Enter into the kingdom of Heaven, thy good and faithful servant". Hallelujah !
    Hallelujah ! Hallelujah !

    June 3, 2010 at 11:08 am |
  6. maria

    @ David You are the idiot . @ yesImalright : No you are not all right . You are a sinner fallen from God . No such thing as luck . God is and was with these Blee Tree men all the way . They are like the many disciples of the day . Who just like many more believers today are facing hard persecution and martyrdom for their faith on Jesus . They have to endure it for the Gopsels sake . They have a Heavenly reward awaiting them . Those without Christ .Who reject the gopsel to the end will see the fire pit of Hell burn upon them . Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand . Repent in fear of your judge God Almighty . Praise God for his hands of protection around them . God grant the Gospel to be spread more in Myammar . God bless every praying person . Who prays for people . Who risk their life for Gospels sake .

    June 3, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  7. Susan

    It is very interesting to me that some of you (unbelievers) are even responding to this story. You clearly recognize something missing in your life, otherwise you would not be reading this site. This is NOT about a religion, these are people who have been changed by Jesus, and as a result are WILLING to lose their lives to share His love with others. This life is not meant to be lived for ourselves alone. You don't understand because your eyes are not open to the truth. Test God in this, and see. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. When He does, your life will be changed too! I find it amazing that these bandmembers and others like them are willing to stop talking and do something to make this world better!!! Praise the Lord!! What are YOU doing????

    June 3, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  8. Angel

    I feel bad for those who posted on here and hate God so much that they attack his people. Captain Nemo, you sound like you don't have very many people who love you considering the way you lash out at everyone on here. And Joel, try to have more grace to deal with unbelievers like captain nemo and others on here who are wasting their time reading about something they don't even believe in. And Joe, great job man. Out of all the posts on here you seem to have the most knowledge of them all. I hope I can show love to those who don't receive it enough even if it does mean possible death. May God bless us all because the end is very near and those who don't accept the message will be dumbfounded in the end. For all you atheists, research christianity, or more precisely Yahweh, and see for yourselfs that God is real and alive. Read the "Case for Christ", "Mere Christianity", and research what apologetics is, you may be surprised how much that science proves God's Existence. As always I love you all. this is for the glory of God and Jesus Christ

    May 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  9. loveuall

    To all you Mr. Davids, Trashes,Zepplins and others.......with all due respect, my heart breaks for you. You all seem to be logical people, so ponder on this thought for a moment. If we as Christians have our beliefs wrong, what have we lost when we come to the end of our lives??? Living a life for Jesus is very fulfilling, joyous and amazing. But if you are wrong in your beliefs, what have you lost when you come to the end of your life??? EVERYTHING....spending an eternity separated from God and anything good is not a place you want to find yourself in. Jesus said "I am the way , the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." If you ask, God will make himself known to you. Love and prayers...

    May 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Charles Wong

    One part of the article said they 'feted' the Karen Buddist Army & the next part said that army shared part of the 'bribe' with the Burmese army. Now which is which & what exactly was offered? Good intention perhaps, but definitely lack of wisdom

    May 26, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  11. K

    I'm a Christian Pastor and travel to Northern Thailand every year to hang out and build relationships with Burmese Refugees, so I know the area and the situation in Burma (not Myanmar). I read all these posts and sometimes laugh, sometimes frown. It's crazy. I feel bad because Christianity is so offensive to people. Like, some of you take the action alone of these guys so personal that you get so angry about it. Why is that? And some of you, who are Christians, probably need to stay silent and stop writing these posts getting pissed off.

    To the Christians – stop pissing people off with your judgement. It's not your job to judget the world. God loves gay people, he loves murderers and the people doing horrible things. So be silent when you want to unleash an emotional outburst.

    To the non-Christians – look, if we disagree, we disagree. There's no reason to get into a battle over it. I'm not trying to be pc about it, I believe in Christ and have strong opinions. But, we can live together knowing we have a difference in opinion. Does God love you regardless of your behavior, absolutely. Regardless of MY behavior too.

    Christians are not perfect. Yes, there are Christian extremists, judgemental ones and stupid Christians. Christians need to adopt more humility and tolerance.

    May 26, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  12. Kelly

    I see the word idiot being thrown around a lot by both sides and since, according to Webster, the words idiot and fool are interchangable, let me quote this:
    "A fool is quick-tempered but a wise person stays calm when insulted" -Proverbs 12:16
    "But I say, if you are even angry with someone you are subject to judgement. If you call someone an idiot, you are indanger ofbeing brought before the court..." -Matthew 5:22
    "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior" -Ephesians 4:26
    "Human anger does not produce the righteousness of God" -James 1:20
    And for my fellow Christians, remember, "In every place of worship I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy" -1 Timothy 2:8
    I commend the members of Bluetree for risking everything to love others with the love of Christ. May they continue to be blessed.

    May 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  13. Captain Nemo

    >well, we have something worth dying for. no one else can say that

    It is deluded, pompous, bigoted, self-righteous bloviation like this that makes so many feel fear and disgust for many Christians.

    Do you really mean that no Jew, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or Deist, or atheist has "something worth dying for"? How about the many American "Founding Fathers" who weren't Christian (or even religious)?

    God help you, you intolerant fool: God loves you, but many of the rest think you're a jerk.

    May 25, 2010 at 4:01 am |
    • John

      I believe God loves you too and I hope that you'll be able to find the faith to love HIm back.

      May 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
    • Angel

      all those like captain nemo who reject God will get exactly what they want in the end. the eternal seperation that they have already begun with their own will. God is reaching out as you hang on the edge of the cliff, will you grab his hand or slap it away and fall to your death?

      May 27, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  14. Ingrid Ljungren

    I think you need to always follow the rules & regulations of the country you're visiting. I thank God this band is safe & sound. Yet......Look how many times Moses, John the Baptist & even Jesus crossed the lines of authority.

    May 24, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  15. haglellis

    God could care less about our comfort. He wants us to enter into those things in our lives that make us uncomfortable. Jesus was a rebel. He stirred things up for the kingdom. Go God!!!

    May 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  16. James

    religion is the poison and the cure of our planet

    May 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  17. Scott

    Darwinism does not support people like this. I'm glad you all believe in something else....

    May 24, 2010 at 10:42 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.