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’Kayah State Day’ celebration fosters unity

Church helps to keep tradition alive among young Myanmar Kayah

’Kayah State Day’ celebration fosters unity
Young ethnic Kayah tribe performing their traditional dance around a bonfire reporter, Loikaw

January 18, 2011

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The Catholic Church in Myanmar is helping Kayah tribal youth keep their culture alive by helping them understand and organizing traditional events. Myanmar Church encourages local cultural ceremony of ethnic “We must thank God for giving us the chance to celebrate our State Day and we need to love our state and the environment,” said Father Celso Ba Shwe from Loikaw diocese that recently organized ‘Kayah State Day’ to help foster unity, loyalty and cultural aspirations of the younger generation. The parish priest of the Sacred Heart Cathedral said the State Day is an opportunity for young people to embrace their cultural activities, as some may not have a chance to experience them. About 3,000 ethnic Kayah tribal people -- Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and animists on Jan. 15 joined the 59th State Day celebration in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state. The celebration involved different kinds of activities including sports and a competition, cultural performances and a bonfire gathering. “We aim to foster younger generations to respect and honor their state,” said U Mg Thein, an elderly Buddhist. U Thein said everyone has to acquire a general knowledge about their tribe and this could be done through cultural exhibitions, competitions and gatherings. The 80-year-old chairman of the Kayah cultural and literature committee said the event aims to create unity regardless of religious backgrounds and to have people commit to the annual celebration. “The cultural dances such us pounding rice made us happier during the celebration,” said 25-year-old Thuzar Tin. The Buddhist nurse said she and her friends travelled a great distance to see the cultural practice of the Kayah ethnic tribe. According to U Thein, before Myanmar became independent in 1948 from British colonial rule, the Kayah State was called Kayenni State. The state was named Kayah in 1951 and since Jan. 15, 1952, it has been celebrating the State Day. They were also called Karenni in the past as they used to wear red dresses, he said. According to the 2011 Catholic Directory, the population of Kayah State is 301,187, an average population density of 17 persons per square kilometer. About three quarters of the population are ethnic minority groups: Kayan, Kayaw and Kayak, while the remaining quarter is Burmese, Shan and Kayah. Christianity and Buddhism are the two dominant religions in the state that is regarded as the stronghold of Catholicism in Myanmar. Related report Kayin New Year promotes unity and tradition MY12884.1637
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