Updated: April 23, 2021 05:00 AM GMT
Nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition provide food items to 300 needy households in Mandalay on April 20. (Photo: SJA )
Myanmar Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus are cooperating to provide support to people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families following months of political turmoil.
The Southeast Asian nation has been plunged into political upheaval following the army seizing power before the newly elected parliament was able to meet on Feb. 1, sparking daily protests against military rule and a nationwide civil disobedience movement.
Nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition (SJA) are leading an interfaith group giving aid to 300 needy families in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city.
The interfaith group is providing staples like rice, cooking oil, salt and onions thanks to generous contributions from the Myanmar Catholic community in Norway.
SJA nuns have also given moral and material support to people who were affected by a fire while they mourned with the families for those killed by security forces in pro-democracy protests.
The nuns have also been leading prayer groups for peace and joining Catholics marching in the streets, saying the rosary while they provided food and drinks to the anti-coup protesters.
Out of darkness, simple acts of generosity shine with great power
The Catholic Church in the Buddhist-majority country has gained world attention through the inspiring witness of Sister Ann Rosa Nu Tawng from Kachin state whose courageous act in confronting security forces in February and March is an example to us all.
Cardinal Charles Bo hailed the example of Sister Ann’s faith, which has inspired many and led to a greater appreciation of the Catholic Church and the life of a religious.
“Out of darkness, simple acts of generosity shine with great power,” Cardinal Bo said in a Divine Mercy Sunday message.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that food insecurity is rising sharply in Myanmar following the military coup and millions more people will go hungry in coming months.
WFP estimates that up to 3.4 million more people will go hungry in Myanmar, particularly those in urban areas, within the next six months.
“More and more poor people have lost their jobs and are unable to afford food,” country director Stephen Anderson said in a statement on April 22.
“A concerted response is required now to alleviate immediate suffering and to prevent an alarming deterioration in food security.”
WFP said the rice price has increased by 5 percent in Yangon and across the country since January and the price of cooking oil has increased by 18 percent since February.
Prices are also on the rise in border states including Rakhine, Chin and Kachin. In Kachin, rice prices are up by as much as 43 percent in some townships and cooking oil by 32 percent. The price of fuel has increased by roughly 30 percent nationwide, according to WFP.
After nearly three months, the military is still struggling to control the country
There are signs families in and around Yangon are being pushed to the edge, skipping meals, eating less nutritious food and going into debt just to survive.
The WFP has planned to nearly triple its support from 1.3 million to 3.3 million people and urgently needs US$106 million.
Since the coup, the military has unleashed a wave of terror against peaceful protesters and other unarmed bystanders that has claimed more than 700 lives including dozens of children.
After nearly three months, the military is still struggling to control the country. The banking system has come to a standstill, factories are closed, investments halted and the bureaucracy is not functioning, including hospitals, railways and education, because of many civil servants' participation in the civil disobedience movement.