Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Farmers take advantage of new protest law
Myanmar reforms embolden farmers' public protestsFarmers protest in front of the office of Pinle Ko Thwe company in Yangon
- Thomas Toe, Yangon
- July 23, 2012
But earlier this month the countryâs new, military-dominated parliament passed a law permitting protests for the first time. And farmers in Myanmar are already using their new-found rights.
Following allegations of land-grabbing by companies on the outskirts of Yangon, on Friday 300 farmers held banners calling for their farmland to be returned in Dagon Seikkan Township, an industrial area in the eastern part of the city center.
Phyo Phyu, a lawyer who represents farmers, said reforms in the country mean it has become possible to discuss problems freely. This should also extend to the rights of farmers, he added, who make up nearly two-thirds of Myanmarâs population of 60 million people.
âWe are demanding these companies return confiscated land to farmers for the sake of the farmers themselves as well as for the whole country,â said Phyo Phyu.
Protests are still considered unchartered territory in Myanmar which means rules remain unclear. Although the farmers sought and received permission from the authorities to protest from last Tuesday, only 300 of 900 farmers who requested to take part were allowed to do so.
Still, the dozen or so policemen watching close by remained bystanders throughout the two-hour demonstration. Traditionally, security forces have intimidated and arrested protesters, or even worse in some cases such as during the saffron revolution in September 2007 when soldiers fired at monks and shot dead a Japanese journalist in Yangon.
Other tactics have included video-taping political protesters which are spied upon later and then often rounded up, usually in the dead of night.
âNow we can protest according to the law,â said Myint Aung, a farmersâ representative from Nyaungbin village in Dagon Seikkan Township. âIt makes us feel good to get the chance to express our free will.â
Their protest against construction firms including Max Myanmar, which is owned by Zaw Zaw, a tycoon that remains on the US sanctions list, follows similar demonstrations in Yangon earlier last week targeting Zaykabar Company, another property firm accused of land grabbing which is run by Khin Shwe, a member of the lower house of parliament.
Although the new protest law has put these prominent business people in an unfamiliar position versus poor farmers in the country, five farmers still face a lawsuit for demonstrating in front of the Housing Department in Yangon in October before the legislation was passed, says Myint Aung.
Maung Nyo, a farming community leader from Thayetpin Chaung village also in Dagon Seikkan Township, said that authorities have sanctioned land-grabbing by the private sector.
In some cases this has meant farmers have witnessed companies destroying their crops, he added.
âWe have nothing to eat so we demand to be able to farm on our own land,â said Maung Nyo. âWithout a farm and food, how can a farmer live?â