Condolences to Chin Christian Leader Rev. Dr. Sang Awr
19 January 2011: Chin people across the world sent messages of sympathies and condolences to the family of Chin Christian Leader, Rev. Dr. Sang Awr, who died of cancer at Thukhagabor hospital in Rangoon around 11:30pm on 16 January 2011.
Chin communities, churches and individuals alike were deeply saddened by the loss of their bedridden leader, with some expressing their sadness by posting songs of lamentations, tragic poems and memories in his honour and respect.
Chairman of Norway Chin Christian Federation (NCCF), Pu No Thawng, said: “We, the Chins in Norway, were deeply grieved by the death of our Chin father, Rev. Dr. Sang Awr. His sermons and words of encouragement during his visit to Norway in 2006 are still well remembered in each of our hearts. We equally shared the most sorrowful and difficult time with the bereaved family.”
The 70-year-old Professor-cum-Pastor had suffered from the complications of stomach cancer since 2000, and also received special treatments in Singapore after the cancer was found to have spread to his bones in 2008.
In his poetic expression of tribute, Nang Sawm Piang mourned: “Beloved Teacher, it is sad to accept the fact that you have left us. Dynamic Leader, it is a great loss for us as we lost our guiding star… Yet, we are comforted knowing that you are now with the Lord.”
Suang Khen Pau, from MIT (Myanmar Institute of Theology), lamented: “We are very sorry and deeply saddened by his death as he had been one of the outstanding leaders among Baptists in Myanmar from the Chin ethnic group.
Until today, Chin email groups have been flooded with lines of messages, condolences and memories with photos of Rev. Dr. Sang Awr, who had travelled enormously both in Burma and abroad.
More than 1,000 people turned up at a funeral service held at Hpu Tha Phy Hall, Karen Baptist Theological Seminary Campus in Insein, Rangoon at 1pm on 18 January 2011, paying their last respect and tribute to Rev. Dr. Sang Awr.
An array of flower garlands from different groups, families and individuals was displayed filling up the pulpit area underneath a large photo of Rev. Dr. Sang Awr being hung up in the middle of the pulpit wall.
In a funeral worship service chaired by Rev. Dr. Cung Lian Hup were General Secretary of Myanmar Baptist Convention and one of his best friends, Rev. Dr. Zaw Win as the key speaker; Rev. Dr. Simon Pau Khan En to pray for the bereaved family; and Pu Hre Lian Kio to read a brief biography of Rev. Dr. Sang Awr. Sang Awr’s only daughter, Licky Rem Hlei Sung, and brother-in-law, Pu Khua Thawng, both from the USA, said words of thanks on behalf of the family.
One of the service attendants said: “It was one of the biggest funeral services I have attended. Rev. Dr. Sang Awr was a devoted Christian leader, committed to whatever he did. His works had been well recognised and respected by the people from Myanmar Council of Churches, Myanmar Baptist Convention to the local churches.”
The funeral service ended with a benediction by Rev. Dr. Maung Maung Yin before the coffin with the dead body wrapped up in Chin traditional dress was taken to Yewei Christian Cemetery in Mingladone Township, the northernmost part of Rangoon.
Rev. Dr. Sang Awr, known by his close friends as healthy and athletic, underwent a stomach cancer operation in 2000 where the infected part of his stomach was cut off.
The lawyer-turned-pastor was admitted first to Singapore General Hospital in early February 2008 for various medical checkups including CT (Computerised Tomography) and bone scannings, and then to Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Centre in Singapore to receive cancer treatments in March after it was confirmed that his bones were infected allegedly in connection with his previous stomach cancer.
Based in Rangoon, he made a few trips to Singapore on a regular basis for medical checkups since early 2008 until he was called to his heavenly home on 16 January 2011.
Sang Awr was born on 23 July 1941 as the eldest son of seven siblings to Pu That Vung and Pi Chiah Zing of Thau village in Thantlang Township, Chin State, Burma. Married on 6 April 1975 in Thantlang Town, Rev. Dr. Sang Awr is survived by his wife, Pi Mah Cin, four sons and one daughter, and two grandchildren.
Studying laws at Rangoon Art and Science University in 1965, he completed his B.A (Law) and LL.B (Law) in 1968 and 1969 respectively. After receiving a certificate of Supreme Court Advocate in 1975, he worked for ten years as a lawyer in different towns including Thantlang, Hakha, Falam, Mandalay and Rangoon.
Sang Awr was put in jail as one of over 70 Chin intellectuals detained in 1972 by the military regime for taking part in proposing and submitting 150 points of suggestions in regards to equality, justice and federal system for the Union of Burma.
After working as Literature Secretary of Thantlang Association of Baptist Churches (TABC) in 1979, as TABC General Secretary in 1980 and as President of Zomi Baptist Convention (ZBC) in 1983, Sang Awr joined Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT) in 1986 for Bachelor of Divinity.
While he was teaching at MIT, he had a chance to further his studies of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, USA and Trinity Theological College, Singapore. In regcognition of his commitment and outstanding services, the MIT Board of Trustees awarded Doctor of Divinity to Rev. Sang Awr in 2003 while he was serving as Vice Principal of MIT.
His other well-known involvements included President of Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC), the largest Christian organisation in Myanmar; Director of Higher Theological Education Department of MBC; Chairman of Association of Theological Education Publication of Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) and Senior Pastor of his local church, Lai Baptist Church (LBC) in Rangoon.
As a prolific writer, Rev. Dr. Sang Awr authored more than 13 religious books, and also contributed articles in Hakha-Chin dialect and English as well as Burmese to magazines, journals and newsletters.
In the interview conducted by Joel Ling, Editor of Muko Magazine, Rev. Dr. Sang Awr said as a message of dream for the Chin people: “It is natural that we have dreams but these dreams are just nothing if the circumstances donot allow. For the physical and spiritual development of our land, it is most important that a common platform is created where we, the Chin people from inside and outside Burma, can work together.”
Van Biak Thang