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Diaconate ordinations held amid turmoil in Myanmar

Church provides humanitarian assistance, education and income generation opportunities for people in makeshift camps
Diaconate ordinations held amid turmoil in Myanmar

A Catholic nun pleads with police not to harm protesters amid a crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup in Myitkyina in Myanmar's Kachin state in March. (Photo: AFP/Myitkyina News Journal)

Published: October 07, 2021 08:35 AM GMT
Updated: October 09, 2021 04:24 AM GMT

The Catholic Church in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has ordained a dozen young men to the diaconate amid the political turmoil following the military’s Feb. 1 coup.

On Oct. 5, Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw presided over the ordination of four deacons at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Banmaw town. Due to Covid-19 restrictions and the volatile political situation, only relatives and some priests were allowed to take part in the event.

Earlier, five deacons were ordained by Auxiliary Bishop Noel Saw Naw Aye of Yangon at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon on Sept. 25, while Bishop Raymond Saw Poe Ray of Mawlamyine held a diaconate ordination of two young men on May 23.

The minority Christian community in Myanmar has more than 1,000 priests, around 2,000 religious nuns and hundreds of catechists who are serving in the 16 dioceses across the country.

Banmaw Diocese is in Kachin state in the north where fighting continues to rage between the military and the combined forces of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and newer resistance groups.

A Christian stronghold, the conflict-torn region has seen more than 100,000 flee their homes. The Catholic Church has been organizing humanitarian assistance as well as education and income generation activities for people in makeshift camps.

Catholics have suffered terribly. Our churches have been attacked. Many of our people are displaced in our own land

Church activities including Masses and other liturgical services remain suspended due to the worrying pandemic situation in the troubled Southeast Asian nation. The resultant economic crisis has further worsened the situation of the people.

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has hailed the Church in the Buddhist-majority country, describing it as “young, vibrant and growing,” especially the priestly and religious vocation, despite the many challenges since the coup.

“Catholics have suffered terribly. Our churches have been attacked. Many of our people are displaced in our own land,” he said at the International Eucharist Congress in Hungary last month.

At least 1,156 people including Christians have lost their lives in brutal killings by the military and over 8,000 have been detained since Feb.1.

The junta has ignored repeated calls by world leaders including Pope Francis to end violence and return to the negotiation table towards peace.

Civilians from ethnic regions, including predominantly Christian areas in Chin, Kayah, Kachin and Karen states, have borne the brunt of the recent conflict where people have historically faced oppression and persecution under decades-old military rule.

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