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. Matt

    Behold the battle between GOOD and EVIL, right here on the blogs of CNN... Of course some people just can't see it that way. One day all men will know the truth.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Captain Nemo

      Not a battle between good and evil, but between differing conceptions of good.

      May 25, 2010 at 5:19 am |
  2. Fred Evil

    Hmm, sounds to me like Myanmar has a better idea about how to deal with illegal immigrants.

    You idiots weren't "spared," you got LUCKY. Now learn from your stupidity, and don't violate another country's borders!!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  3. K Mac

    So, people who posted that these people were stupid, ignorant, etc......

    Do you feel the same way about the 3 hikers jailed in Iraq for illegally crossing the border?

    I didn't think so.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
    • Captain Nemo

      Actually, yes, I do. Fools who can't read a map and decide to go hiking in one of the world's most dangerous hot spots.

      Idiots. Any fool can FIND trouble.

      May 25, 2010 at 5:18 am |
  4. Ichthus

    All those who are criticizing the group for going into the country need to be asked what they are doing to bring hope to these persecuted people? It is easy to sit at a keyboard and criticize. I am grateful for any Christians who put their faith into action to meet the needs of others. I am also surprised by the hatred shown by those who criticize Christians. Of course, as a Christian, I understand that the enemy (yes Satan does exist) has darkened the minds of unbelievers. It isn't Christians who are intolerant, it is people who say they believe in tolerance for all groups except for Christians. What HYPOCRISY!!! If those of you who are unbelievers are truly tolerant you would also show tolerance and acceptance of Christians but from these posts that is not happening. I also pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten your hearts and minds so that you may come to know the only one who is the way, the truth and the life–Jesus Christ-the Son of God. Peace.

    May 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  5. Bubba

    An agent books live performance dates, so I'm doubtful he was "miffed."

    May 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  6. Joe

    The Bible says Psalms 14:1-2
    1 The fool [a] says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.

    Take any product you are using computers, phones, cars etc

    Matter + Design + Creator = Product

    If I say
    Matter + Design + Evolution = Product for the same items,

    Even if I allow trillions of years to go by and add a big destructive bang (Big Bang Theory)

    Would you ever get those products?

    The answer is a BIG NO.

    If you take any being (product) – created work – every living and non living thing.

    You will see order, design, and frame, beyond reasoning.

    Do you think it all evolved automatically?

    Take a human body – the brain and the neural networks are more powerful than any computer system ever built, what about body r frame –skeleton, see how it is structured and well ordered. It speaks about design . it speaks about a Creator.

    Are you hinting?
    Matter + Design + Evolution = Product.

    Did you know that carbon dating method is completely flawed? If you go by half life period of carbon. As some scientist’s estimated the age of earth to be billions of years.
    C12 Isotope will have flooded the earth and earth would have been highly radioactive to sustain life.

    Did you know sun is just a star and if the earth was little near the sun, there would not have been any life? If the earth was little away, still no life. Earth rotates in its axis and around a elliptical orbit maintaining that path in precise order.

    Did you know? Escape velocity of gases, if you change any value in this formula,
    Ve= SQRT (2GM/r)

    there won’t be any life because all gases would have escaped the earth’s atmosphere.

    Don’t go by only what scientists say they can be proved wrong. They are offering theories.

    Bible is infallible Word of God and it is the manual from God for humans.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  7. david leo

    We are all so very wise aren't we? We have landed on the moon, found a cure for small pox, "linked" the evolution of man to a cytoplast, found and studied ancient cultures. We can educate ourselves, teach others We really are great huh? What surprises me most, is that with all our wisdom and profane knowledge we have yet to recognize the source of this bleak existence we so mundanely maintain. We shuffle here and there, grind the 9-5 everyday but sunday...we sure are busy aren't we? but this is the course of man, always banging his head against a wall just as long as he doesn't have to worry about the guy next to him doing the same thing...We have no concept of love, we think we know love, but its only selfishness...even if God didn't exist these men gave up their "freedom" to bring true love to a village that could use a little hope...is that so bad? is that worth throwing them in jail for a "long long time" or worth the shedding of more blood...as soon as the people give up their lives for the sake of others, then the masses will not only know what real love is, they too will experience something as great,! you cant put your finger on it, cant smell it, or taste it, but your soul will rejoice, if you have one left...this is your connection to the world, to the universe...nothing else really matters at all....we see all of this creation, and we've got the math and science to figure out a tenth of it, but if we cant realize that it was put here ultimatly out of love, and saved by the love of ONE true God, then we are blind even to that tenth...God is great, and may he bless you athiest, muslim, christian, jew, gay, whatever...God is Love, but rest assure He is also our Judge, the Judge of our hearts, hope you get them right.

    May 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  8. tommas

    Ventor just created the first “artificial" life, that’s right humans now have the ability to produce life. We are now god, religion is so last millennia.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • Joe

      Is it really an artificial life form?

      All what the the researchers transplanted an entire natural genome - the genetic code - of one bacterium into another and watched it take over, turning a goat germ into a cattle germ.The researchers picked two species of a simple germ named Mycoplasma. First, they chemically synthesized the genome of M. mycoides, that goat germ, which with 1.1 million "letters" of DNA was twice as large as the germ genome they'd previously built.

      Then they transplanted it into a living cell from a different Mycoplasma species, albeit a fairly close cousin.
      All the scientists were doing was porting protein codes in living cells. did they create life? no.

      All They were trying to do reverse engineer what Almighty God has already done.

      Genesis 2:7
      the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

      if you look at the word 'dust' the hebrew word for it is aphar or clay.

      what is that which makes the cells alive – breath of life.

      All these researchers did was transplant code into a living cell. Did they create life energy into a dead cell and make it living. They did not.

      Job 7:7
      Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again.

      Job 12:10
      In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

      Job 27:3
      as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils.

      Psalm 33:6
      By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

      Psalm 104:29
      When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.

      Ecclesiastes 3:19
      Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath ; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless

      Isaiah 42:5
      This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:

      For your information, we are sons of God.

      Gen 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them"

      God the Father sent His Son to the cross – to redeem us from the second death (eternal separation from God)

      May 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  9. b

    Your comment is compassionate, even-tempered, and completely awesome! Thank you.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  10. Samantha

    Seems to me that the only people willing to risk their lives to share the gospel of Christ are Christians. Hmm. Makes you wonder. Praise God for that.

    May 21, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • b

      If someone wasn't Christian they wouldn't spread the Gospel even if it didn't risk their life.

      May 21, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  11. Joe

    In reply to your question "you know a lot of verses and know nothing about what the Bible is talking about or Christianity."

    Please don't judge me that I don't know the Bible or Christainity. I was a aethist before my conversion to Jesus Christ.Earlier, I could not read the Bible because I could not find any sense in it because of my scientific background.

    I was a diligent seeker of truth. I spend years in Apologetics and arrived at rational basis for my Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views. I also spend years in studying good christian apologetics books -namely Answers for Aethists, Design vs Evolution, Biblical creation, Bible Authenticity, Is Jesus Christ -Yeshua Hamashiya, Divinity of Jesus Christ, Bible Prophesises etc.

    About your query "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."
    I read books on Hinduism, Islam , Buddhism etc.
    The oldest Hindu vedic texts talk about Jesus Christ the Messiah and Savior of mankind.There are more than 18 shlokas (verses) in sanskrit (old indo aryan language) telling about yagam ( sacrifice) and deliverance of man kind from sins.
    "Om Shree Dardiyah Namah" – Blessed are you born poor
    "Om Shree Vrushshulah Namah" -Blessed are you nailed on a wood
    "Om Shree Naraya Namah" -Blessed are you who walked on water
    "Om Shree Kanays Namah" -Blessed are you born of a virgin
    "Om Shree Praja Pati Yagam" -Blessed are you ManGod who sacrificed himself

    I am convinced beyond doubt that Jesus is God and Savior.

    In reply to your question "To judge something based on a rulebook understanding of it with no concept of their application or relation to the whole is….what?

    Knowing scriptures means nothing. it is all about doing what the word says.

    Matthew 7:24
    [ The Wise and Foolish Builders ] "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

    I found the truth and the truth has set me free.

    May 21, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • John

      Joe –

      My apologies, I didn’t understand your post. I had read something by another Joe who was sarcastically attacking Christianity and I made the assumption that you were the same Joe and you were doing the same. Again, I apologize.

      May 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  12. Rudy

    To Adam who said that "Christians are no better than Islamists": Well when a Christian tries to share his faith with you, and you reject him, all he does is go away and pray for you. When an Islamist tries to get you to convert to his faith and you reject him, he believes then that he must KILL you, his book orders him to do so. You see no difference in that?

    May 21, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  13. SC voter

    Thomas You have my vote Wish we could send Burma all of our illegals then the ones that support them.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • stuart

      For this cause, to tell people of the greatest man who ever lived? You can send me. If you can say to me that you've never done something wrong, i won't believe you. I'm 100% certain that if everyone was killed for doing something wrong, the only person able to walk on the earth would be Jesus. The acts that the Burmese military are committing are a lot worse than anything Bluetree did on this missions trip, where should they be sent?

      May 22, 2010 at 8:20 pm |
  14. lol

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    May 21, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  15. John

    Great post.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  16. Tom

    Should have shot them? You're a repugnant animal. Do you consider yourself better than Christians? What do YOU do for other people? Cowardly ass...

    May 21, 2010 at 8:25 am |
  17. Michael

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, please let me say simply that these people entered Myanmar illegally. Their motives do not concern me. I believe the Bible quotes Jesus as saying "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's..." In this case, the Myanmar authorities (Caesar) state that No Visa = No Entry. End of story.

    May 21, 2010 at 8:24 am |
    • John

      Well, that's a little too simple - you've taken that verse out of context but we can ignore that for the bigger issue. In the case of the American Revolution, I'm glad that Washington, Jefferson and the rest resisted your reasoning or we'd still be a British colony. Of course your reasoning has nothing to do with the Revolution or these guys sneaking into Myanmar but I think that's the point, huh?

      May 21, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  18. april

    Whats with the weirdo atheists posting on a religion blog?

    May 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Mohammad Cartoon

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      May 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  19. april

    I don't usually advocate doing missionary work illegally. But in a case where abuse is rife and the government either does nothing, or hides it, I make and exception. Someone needs to have the heart and the courage to help these people. So I'm gonna applaud these guys. Perhaps God was looking out for them.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • verify

      @april: And if they had died, they would be called martyrs for their Lord... or the Lord took them to be with him... or Satan did it, right?

      May 20, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  20. Mohammad Cartoon

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    May 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
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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.