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. nw

    authenticity of their sneak trip to Burma is questionable. but i support their cause to help those refugees.

    May 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  2. Lisa

    Your comment befalls the thousand of men and women in uniform...to wistfully say you wish we had the same regulations here as over there puts you on Obama's side. A terrorist is a terrorist.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  3. Alexandra

    Reading this blog answered a question/concern I had earlier about the "belief blog" in general; to wit, communication will not be done properly. All they are doing is justifying their belief. Wow. What a waste of my time.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  4. Joe

    Jesus is the good shepherd. He laid down his life as ransom for his sheep. He is also the gate to heaven. No one can be saved without him

    if you are his sheep. you will hear his voice and follow after him.

    if you don't hear his voice then you are a goat. please see below the consequences for being a goat.

    John 10: 14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd

    John 10: 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

    11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

    The Sheep and the Goats
    Matthew 25 31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
    34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

    37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

    40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

    41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

    44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

    45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

    46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

    May 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Mike

      That is the real stuff. what it means to be a Christian.

      May 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • NateW

      God Bless you Joe, I hope more people in the future can see this as the true meaning of what God truly is through Jesus who spoke the truth. I have a question that I am struggling with. In today's market dominated society, were virtually all land is owned by someone, where history has been influenced by money more than anything else ten fold. I started wondering a while ago wether it would be wrong to steal from the rich (those with a lot of money, and therefore in many cases power) and use every cent of that money to go directly to giving food, and drink, and modern medical technology to the poor and the needy, those that can not find a way to pay for it. It seems to me that this starvation and lack of medical technology as well as the inability for the majority of them to relocate, can be steemed from what the existance of money has done. Maybe Money is not inherently evil, but given the current state of the world it seems it has been teh leading cause for pain suffering and a capitalist web of influence that has taken over everything the worlds resources have to offer and kept it from those who can not pay.

      I have gotten rambling a little here but my question to you your thoughts on this statement: "If money or rather the established institution that is the world market, is the reason that throughout at leastthe past few decades, than it would be right to take from those who have much much more than they need and give to those who are at least the poorest of the world, those in need."

      I stated this because I read your comment and was reminded of the what Jesus said about helping the least of his brothers. Your thoughts Joe?

      May 21, 2010 at 5:17 am |
    • John

      You know a lot of verses and know nothing about what the Bible is talking about or Christianity. An oversimplified version of this is my understanding of hockey – I can read the rules, I can watch the game, hit the puck & skate are not hard concepts – but this doesn’t mean that I understand hockey. I can’t argue about its virtues as a sport though I do know it’s the national sport of Canada but is it better than basketball. How would I know if it’s a good sport or bad sport? I couldn’t do that if I didn’t lace up the skates and get out there and play.

      To judge something based on a rulebook understanding of it with no concept of their application or relation to the whole is….what? I’ll let you feel in the blank for what you would think of me if I was trying to portray your beliefs to suit my interpretation of them.

      May 21, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  5. felice

    i think an important point of the article is that the situation in burma is extremely dire for regular citizens – they are not free to believe what they wish. these people have NOTHING and even after the horrible flood disaster their government still does NOTHING to help. i work in a doctor's office where we take care of refugees from burma and have heard many stories about christians being hunted by the military to be murdered. anyone who tries to bring attention to the troubles of this country has my admiration.

    May 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  6. GMan

    The federal gov't not being founded on the christian religion, or not being construed as establishing an official religion is not the same as the United States not being a Christian nation. There are two sides to the debate on the Treaty of Tripoli

    May 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • Captain Nemo

      Do not confuse the fact that there are many Christians in the US with the US being a Christian nation.

      Given enough time, it is possible that the majority of US citizens will be Scientologists or followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may you be touched by His noodly appendage).

      And, if that happens, the US will be neither a Scientologist of FSM nation: it will still be a nation with no official religion that has a lot of followers of these religions.

      May 25, 2010 at 5:10 am |
  7. EL

    Tsk. These guys go, and help raise the spirits of the oppressed. They were asked to go there. To remind the people there are others thinking, and praying for them. To risk their lives for something beyond them. Yet here we have those sad souls who have no idea what it's like to even know of such a life. Your hearts are hardened. Your necks are stiff. No love for your fellow man. May the Lord help you.

    May 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Captain Nemo

      >Oh boy, cannot wait till you come face to face with God. Phew, I think He just might have a few
      > things to say, or maybe you will be so overcome, He won't have to

      But wait: God is LOVE and FORGIVENESS, right?

      You just flunked Christianity 101, you arrogant, bigoted jerk.

      May 25, 2010 at 5:06 am |
  8. Trash

    Their ignorance is unbelievable.

    May 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • mary

      Referencing your comment above "You just joined the herd . . . " Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a Christian in this day and age? How unpopular it makes you? On top of that, the bar for what you expect from yourself–both in action and in thought–raises (or should at any rate). In some respects, on the surface, it is far easier to believe in nothing, to be accountable to only yourself and other people who may or may not have your best interests at heart.

      There is no herd.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • Trash

      Oh bull. If I wanted to grow my business I would join a church and pretend to pray. I could grow my business tenfold. Religion is about forming a community and supporting each other, but I could not be that hypocritical to pretend I am anything but a normal person, loves his kids, and knows there is no god.

      I have lost two clients who "discovered" I was atheist. They asked, I answered. They tried to convert me, I blanched, they left.

      I never, in a million years, would not help someone due to religious beliefs, or lack of same, held by them,

      May 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • Trash

      Oh, and the religious friend who put bible references and crosses into kids goody bags for a 4 year olds birthday.

      Not in a million years would I put a darwin fish in their goodie bags, I respect them too much, or, at least I did.

      Start 'em young!

      May 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • b

      Guys, everyone just believe what you feel the need to believe, and stop trashing everyone else for what they believe. It really is that simple!

      May 21, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • gdhdh

      Oh boy, cannot wait till you come face to face with God. Phew, I think He just might have a few things to say, or maybe you will be so overcome, He won't have to

      May 25, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  9. Lisa

    I like your perspective on this...what a great way to look at AZ.

    May 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  10. Joel3

    @Zeppelin – Yea we Christians are all just a bunch of "those folks" who chose to believe in God for no reason whatsoever. We all just woke up one day and chose to believe in some land of make believe just for kicks. Wow, some of you people actually think you are somehow different than us. We were ALL in your shoes at one point- non-believing. OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING VERY SIGNIFICANT HAPPENED IN OUR LIVES TO CAUSE SUCH A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN US. Think about it...

    May 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Trash

      You simply joined the herd. That is all. Nothing special.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • smarts

      Unless you are born into it, brought up around it, something drastic usually does need to happen for someone to believe. Loss of a loved one, strong feelings of loneliness, "hitting rock bottom", a need to belong to be part of something bigger than themselves. Basic human needs really. These things all create an emotional need that religion fills. That's a big part of why it has been around for so long and why there are so many different ones. Others fill it by joining gangs, cults, anything to belong. Your need for it to be true still doesn't make it so. Sorry but it's time for the world to grow up and stop living in fairy tales. Then maybe we can fix the real world.

      May 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  11. paul

    These guys might be dumber than those morons who went HIKING in IRAQ and wandered into IRAN! Well, at least these guys have jobs.

    May 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  12. lary

    Big difference between religion and a relationship wih Jesus Christ. I pity all who mock or do not believe in Jesus Christ as their personal saviour because you are truly a lost soul. Why are people afraid of truth and light, because it makes them accountable to their own actions! I would not change one moment since I became a born again Christian, at least I know where my hope lies.

    May 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • Trash

      Sad that your version of right and wrong hinges on an imaginary premise.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • gdhdh

      oh, we'll see about that.

      May 25, 2010 at 12:45 am |
  13. Zeppelin

    Man, this Joel guy is off his rocker. Someone give him some NyQuil. lol...

    May 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  14. mary

    Wow. Just wow.

    Whether or not you believe in the resurrection (and I do), you have to admit that the historical Jesus had a lot of courage. He was willing to be martyred because of the message of hope he was bringing–that this isn't all there is, that we all seek to live in peace with our neighbors, and that God loves everyone–including those society has rejected. He said that God wanted a personal relationship with everyone and was not interested in the outer trappings of supposed holiness. Rituals don't save man, he said. They don't make men pure or righteous or good. Love does (love of God, love of neighbor).

    When people heard about the message, they began to seek him out by the hundreds. This rattled the church leaders, and even some political leaders as well. Jesus was warned that they would try and stop him–kill him even. He kept on going. He refused to shut up or be intimidated by the powers that be. His message was more important. To quote a line I heard once: He never sold out, never gave up, never gave in. He went to places the rejected, the unclean were at; he touched them, he comforted them, spoke to them, and even fed them, even while the church leaders were planning his demise. You gotta admit, that's pretty gutsy.

    This band followed this example. They did not weigh their safety against spreading Christ's word (Love). They weighed not spreading Christ's Word (love) against the bit of peace and healing it would bring to this small group of children. In their minds, this couple of hours with these kids would be well worth the risk they were taking.

    Again, regardless of whether you accept or reject the existence of God, those who are criticizing this group might want to ask themselves when was the last time they risked their lives when it mattered the most, just make sure someone else knew they were loved.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • Trash

      They were fanatics and fanatics place their lives in jeopardy to spread the word of religion... and you applaud this?

      We are no longer in the middle ages, no need for fanaticism any more. Make it stop so our world can be rational and not insane.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • mary

      There are a lot of fanatics in the world. By some people's standards you're one. Think about it–you feel the need to rush in here and attack what was a noble action, whether you agree with the motivation or not. Exactly what does that make you? A guy who can type 80 words a minute? A troll? These guys went in and sang some songs to some children in the name of something noble and pure. It took a lot more guts than pushing the word "post".

      May 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Trash

      Took a lot more stupidity, you mean. HTH

      May 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • Saint

      Rational for 'Trash' is simply denying the Creator, the biblical and historical God. This is why he is so bitter and selfish. He probably doesn't even love himself. Pray for 'Trash' and all the other lost people on these blogs. If only they come to know Christ, they will be set free from a life of hate, and know the true joy that comes only from knowing the living God.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  15. Bubba

    Well, Thomas, that's the difference between America and some two-bit third world country; we have actual laws instead of roving militias and our sensible policies have made us incredibly wealthy by world standards. Heck, I bet we all have matching shoes even. We even let awful Christian bands live, although I kinda think we should have passed some legislation after Stryper( it should be illegal to say your talent came from God and then sound like bad KISS imitators).

    May 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  16. Casey

    @joel3..Well said joel..So many people view christianity as a religion. They look at it what you can and cant do. It is so much more than that and it offers so much more. It is a relationship with God. A relationship that we can have because of Jesus. Hopefully, we all can have the couage and faith to continue sharing with others. Not to prove them wrong, but sharing with them because we hope that God will open their eyes one day and see His wonderful grace that He has offered us.

    May 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Trash

      You have no idea of your arrogance.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  17. Lee

    Firstly I am a Christian

    with that said, it is sad to see a news story like this riddled with religious debate. We are all entitled to free speech I get that but there is a place and time for that. This you either like it or you don't I for one love stories like this it shows that we as Christians can stand up for our faith and what we believe.

    To the other Christians on here I have to agree with the atheist, agnostics' etc .. We need to show love and making comments without thinking first is the number one reason we turn people off from God.

    "People aren't confused bythe Gospel. They're confused by us. Jesus is the only way to God, but we are not the only way to Jesus. This world doesn't need my tie, my hoodie, my denomination or my interpretation of the Bible. They just need Jesus. We can be passionate about what we believe, but we can't strap ourselves to the Godspel, because we are slowing it down. Jesus is going to save the world, but maybe the best thing we can do is just get out of the way. "
    — Casting Crowns


    "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
    — Kevin Max

    Both are excerpts from songs and are so true. We as Christians need to be mindful of what we say and do

    May 20, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  18. John

    The hate and self-righteous indignation spewed by atheist posters about this article really ticked me off so I had to take a step back. Fellow Christians, please understand that these posters are just the “lunatic fringe” of atheism. Many have no more depth to their knowledge on the subject than what they could learn on Wikipedia. Please don’t argue with the crazies. Please try to educate the sincere inquiries.

    For those using the Treaty of Tripoli as a reason to declare the US a non-Christian nation….more research is needed to understand the context of Article XI that I believe you are referring to. Please research with an open mind the reasons why the treaty was written: What the nation was hoping to gain? What prejudicial opinions the negotiators were combating with the Barbary Coast? Why the earlier treaties had failed? And finally, is that statement essentially correct from the viewpoint of the Founding Fathers, in relation to the sphere of concern of the federal govt vs the state govt in that time period….and when did those spheres change (hint: Abe forced the issue). All of these answers are accessible and discernible with some research and an open-mind. I could tell them to you but I think it would be better if you read with your own eyes from something other than a bias pro-atheist website or the mistaken-conclusion-inducing-fact-finding that Wikipedia produces.

    I wish you all luck in your journey to find truth and faith.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Joe

      The fundamental principle that this country was founded on is personal liberty, period. The rights of the individual to believe whatever they want, and to express those beliefs.

      That ideolgy flies directly in the face of the Christian ideal. Christianity demands an acceptance of the assertion that christ is the saviour and the only true path to salvation. There is no room for argment or conjecture. Believe what is written, or you are going to hell. There is no place for freedom of though in judeo christian religions. You either believe in, and accept the story or you are doomed to eternal damnation.

      The simple most basic tenet of christianity is in complete juxtaposition of the tenets set forth in the founding of this great nation. I have never, ever, once heard anyone set forth any salient argument as to how this country is somehow founded in christian principles. I've heard countless people say it, but never once heard someone prove it.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • John

      Joe –
      In the Bible, Matthew writes that Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. Now this is quote is in relation to the question of taxation but it lends itself well to the overall thought about secular vs religious authority. So I think you can safely separate the “you are going to hell” worry from the “I’m living in a Judeo-Christian based society/govt. Now there may be people that try to blur the line and force your conversion but I’ll be standing right beside you resisting that to my last breath. This government was founded and based on Christian principles but firmly defends your right to believe as you will or not believe at all with no coercion or retribution forthcoming. But to get to primary assertion of if not be based on Christian principles – read the Constitution & study Christianity (because judging by your words, you don’t know it) and if you can’t see the correlation then you just don’t want to. I’ve discussed with quite a few people about the positives and negatives of organized religion & government and I’ve discovered that some people aren’t going to see anything but their viewpoint because they refuse to….I don’t care if you agree with me as long as you can honestly say that you have assessed your own beliefs and hold them up to the mirror from time to time. Good luck.

      May 21, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • Captain Nemo

      The Treaty of Tripoli contains the religious section because the US wanted the world (especially several Muslim nations we were having trouble with) to understand we weren't going around proselytizing Christianity (i.e., undermining the basis of their rule).

      What part of that is hard to understand?

      May 25, 2010 at 5:01 am |
    • Captain Nemo

      For those using the Treaty of Tripoli as a reason to declare the US a non-Christian nation….more research is needed to understand the context of Article XI that I believe you are referring to. Please research with an open mind the reasons why the treaty was written: What the nation was hoping to gain? What prejudicial opinions the negotiators were combating with the Barbary Coast? Why the earlier treaties had failed? And finally, is that statement essentially correct from the viewpoint of the Founding Fathers, in relation to the sphere of concern of the federal govt vs the state govt in that time period….and when did those spheres change (hint: Abe forced the issue).

      Your use of the Socratic failed miserably. If you have a point MAKE IT OR SHUT UP.

      May 25, 2010 at 5:03 am |
  19. Joel3

    @Jen When we try to be "loving" about what we are trying to get across so others can understand, we usually get stepped on. Especially in these blogs. The world seems to think being a follower of Truth in Christ is a religion, when it is NOT. Unfortunately, some of our leaders have turned it into a "religion" over the years. Faith and prayer are key, not some structured religion which turns people off and gets them no where.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
  20. Cieje3

    *Sigh* I hope this actually posts... We all tend to judge others based on their actions, but judge ourselves based on our intentions.. Shouldn't we use the same evaluation process for everyone? May those who truly seek GOD find him.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5
About this blog

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.