In his early teens, Moe Kyaw Tun traversed the jungles of junta-ruled Burma as a messenger in support of the resistance struggle of his ethnic group, the Karen.
Moe says his female relatives wanted him to escape the war. “My father had been imprisoned for his involvement in politics. Almost all of the men in the family were dead.”
Mo eventually met a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) volunteer, Mex Ediger, in Thailand. With Ediger’s help, Moe got to EMU where he finished a BA and earned an MA in conflict transformation. He then earned a second master’s degree in computer science from James Madison University.
At CTP (now the CJP), Moe admits to chafing at what he viewed as the naiveté of his pacifist professors. “When you see the bodies of burned children and raped women [as he did in Burma], you cannot not react,” he says. “You have to survive, you have o defend your family. You have to do something. These are very overwhelming feelings when you are a teenager.”
He elaborates: “Under the eyes of the diplomatic corps in urban areas, I believe non-violent tactics can be effective. But I have not seen evidence that these tactics are effective outside of the spotlight, when you are deep in the jungle and hundreds of thousands are being driven from their homes and killed without anybody noticing.”
Moe credits CTP for helping him find nonviolent ways to support his people’s “struggle for ethnic freedom and equality.” He has been an advisor, for example, to the Karen National Union in negotiating a cease fire with the Burmese government.
CTP also “helped me to see things from the other side. I began to wonder why young Burmese men joined the army. Was it to hurt my people, or was it for other reasons, like their poverty and lack of jobs? I started to be able to put myself in their situation.”
Finally, “it was very, very valuable to me to get a break from being in the conflict zone, through I didn’t realize it at the time I was at CTP.”
Moe, a computer systems engineer for a large consulting firm in the Washington DC area, served in the US Army and thereby gained US citizenship. He is marred to another information technology professional, Tomomi Kotera from Japan. They have two preschool daughters.