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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. Sherry

    Only GOD, Only GOD, Only GOD!!! Thank YOU JESUS ! Praise the LORD ! Hallelujah !

    May 24, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  2. foolforchrist

    i personally belive that stupid and brave cross a fine line. wow, what a way to live. pushing boundries to save lives. i am thankful that at least some people think of others instead of themselves.

    May 24, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  3. JB JB

    Damn illegal aliens entering a country uninvited. It is no wonder the government was upset. Messing with their society and culture taking away their musicians jobs, they did not even speak the freaking language!. They should have been put in jail before they were sent back where they came from.

    May 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  4. Evan

    @ Adam, writted isnt even proper. Im not trying to be rude but not call others dumb, not smart etc. When you cant even you the proper term WROTE.

    May 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • leon

      and you should at least double check your grammar, before you put someone else on blast for theirs

      May 24, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  5. Stephanie

    That is so rude and heartless for you to say that! Why would any agent be upset their band was killed? These people have families just like everyone else.

    May 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  6. Barney

    What these guys did was what being a true Christian is all about. They choose love. That's why they did what they did. They did not choose fear. Politicians choose fear, many in the church establishment choose fear...which is why many times good is hard to come by through them. But the true church, the true body of Christ...to which these guys obviously belong, will not waver in their belief that love is all powerful. They are brave. They follow Christ. Read the new Testament....and I challenge that you will be changed. Christ was the perfect example of true love. You haven't experienced what true love is until you let Christ into your life. Then you will understand the power of what these guys did. They may have changed hundreds of children for the better, because of Jesus Christ.

    May 23, 2010 at 9:10 am |
  7. Barney

    For those who are negative about what these guys did, well, you are lost. And, you are cowards run by fear. Which makes you critics who do nothing but sit back and be hypocrites and spread your fear and negativity in the world. In your terms: You are lame. What these guys did was what being a true Christian is all about. They choose love. That's why they did what they did. They did not choose fear. Politicians choose fear, many in the church establishment choose fear...which is why many times good is hard to come by through them. But the true church, the true body of Christ...to which these guys obviously belong, will not waver in their belief that love is all powerful. They are brave. They follow Christ. Read the new Testament....and I challenge that you will be changed. Christ was the perfect example of true love. You haven't experienced what true love is until you let Christ into your life. Then you will understand the power of what these guys did. They may have changed hundreds of children for the better, because of Jesus Christ.

    May 23, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  8. Barney

    Anyone who can possibly be negative about what these guys did is so lost it isn't even funny. Just plain lost. What these guys did represents what true Christianity is about. It is about choosing love, not fear, and spreading love...the perfect love of Chris. It's that simple. If you want to learn about what it is to be a Christian, don't look at politicians or the establishment, look at real people doing real good in the world. But start by reading the New Testament to learn about Christ.

    May 23, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  9. CJ

    Until the whole world hears the good news of Jesus Christ, till every man has had the opportunity to accept or deny Jesus. We will have wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes, Volcanos, Tsunamis, Famine, Pestulence, and those that will seek to kill all Christians. All of these are written in the ancient book of the Word of God. The Holy Bible. I find it hard to argue with the Word that tells the truth. Look around you, this world is coming to an end. All prophesy will be fulfilled and we as Christians will continue to spread the word at whatever cost. Have any of you read Corrie Ten Boom's book , The Hiding Place? or perhaps, The Torn Veil by Gulshan Esther, her story. Both are true testaments that God exists and whatever glorifies God, which is his desire that we do, supercedes any law written by man. There is no arguement strong enough to break those of faith. Not theirs nor ours. (Christian) But the future is written and it will come to pass and sooner than most are ready for.. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, regardless of your belief.

    May 23, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  10. madmom

    The truth is clear...God brought them there, and He brought them out. Testimony of His love and protection at ALL times. We continue to pray for you.

    May 23, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  11. Saint

    You are blessed if you are persecuted for the sake of Christ. People are natural enemies of Christ until, and unless they come to faith and repentance in Him. So consider it no surprise when many people not just on these blogs, but in your towns ridicule and oppress Christians for their faith. That is natural. As a Christian who is not ashamed of the gospel, all you can do is preach the Word, and know God will bring the increase. If people reject it, then dust off your feet and move on continuing to do what God has called you to do in the area that He has called you to do it in for as long as He has called you there. Don't get mad at people ridiculing and making fun of you, instead, pray for them. Look at the sad condition of their hearts through the messages they leave. They are depraved, and until they come to know Christ, if they ever do. They will continue to be that way. But rest in confidence that one day every knee will bow, and tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord. Even those who won't spend eternity with Him will admit it, and they won't argue with Him at all.

    May 22, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  12. Zocto

    I question the veracity of this report.

    May 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  13. Jeff Myers

    Amazing how many people know nothing of this nation's history. This is indeed a CHRISTIAN nation, by covenant, The Mayflower Compact, 11/11/1620. It states that this nation WOULD be run be the precipes and principles of the gospels of Jesus Christ.Period! No Allah, Buddha, Dali Lama, Joe Smith, etc., Interestingly, Jerimiah 11:1-11; tells us what The Almighty will do to a nation that breaks covenant with Him, No pretty, why do ya think this nation is now being humbled?? If The Almighty did it to His "chosen" many times, why would one think we are any different?

    May 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  14. emag

    I think this was a fine idea. In fact, I think ALL the evangelical xians should go to Myanmar. And stay there.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  15. Lucy

    It is better to lose your life and gain your soul, than to save your life and lose your soul. We are just following the command of our master, Jesus, to spread the gospel which is hope, love, light and life. Eternal life. It really boggles my mind why everyone doesn't want this? Their loss really.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:06 pm |
  16. alex maggard

    Well I think that all of you that were persecuting the members of this band are rediculous , I have met this band and actually toured with them these guys are some of the most genuis guys you will ever meet no matter what you all say. I love how you think their fools for simply trying to do what they think is right oh and it is right its gods will and why does this automatically turn into an arguement over religion? Let's put it like this pagans , god has no simpathy for you on judgement day so I hope you know what your coming fate is.

    May 22, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  17. KT

    I hope the band were successful in sharing the grace of our loving God in this broken nation.

    Science has never ever disproven the existence of God.

    GOD LOVES YOU

    May 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Been There

    @Posted by: Steve Almasy – Producer/Writer
    Come on, Steve! While the band was definitely in danger of being detained as political bargaining chips, you know damn well that those verbal threats of execution by the "high ranking members" were nothing more than just that. Please do not fictionalize your report to sell your story.

    May 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  19. Been There

    This story has been exaggerated and blown way out of proportion. They DO NOT execute high profile American citizens in Myanmar. It has never happened before and it isn't going to happen anytime soon. The top military leader there dares not risk a military intervention by the U.S.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  20. Lola

    Hey, I just wanted to say that these guys are amazing. Having the courage to stand up for what they believe in and trying to make a difference one step at a time. I know people think that they were "idiots" for going into a troubled area and risking their lives, but if they didn't do it would you? These people are still part of our world and we can't just forget about them and leave them in the situations that they are in. Bluetree are brave, and full of the soundest men I know. We should all take a leaf out of their book and start standing up for the oppressed.

    Thanks..

    May 22, 2010 at 3:33 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.