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Myanmar bishops move online during pandemic

Shepherds needing to get the smell of their sheep are using the internet to stay in touch

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Myanmar bishops move online during pandemic

Bishop John Hsan Hgyi of Pathein celebrates a Mass that was broadcast online on Dec. 14. (Photo supplied)

While people are spending more time on the internet amid the Covid-19 crisis, Myanmar’s bishops have turned to communicating with the faithful through online channels.

The restrictions on banning large gatherings including Masses and other church-related celebrations have forced church leaders to rethink their strategy.

Churches across the country have been closed for nearly nine months and church services continue to move online. Some dioceses broadcast daily Bible reflections, Eucharistic adoration and Divine Mercy novena prayers.

Some bishops are using the internet to get in touch with the faithful regularly as shepherds need to get the smell of their sheep.

Bishop John Hsane Hgyi of Pathein in Irrawaddy division is one of the most active internet users.

Some of his homilies about the needs of the poor have prompted donors from inside and outside Myanmar to make generous donations to needy families in Pathein Diocese.

In a homily on Dec. 13, Bishop Hsane Hgyi said poor families are facing a daily battle for survival during the pandemic. He spoke about the lack of income, unemployment and increased suicide in the world.

In early September, the bishop also issued guidelines to clergy, religious and laypeople to prevent a second wave of the contagion.

The 67-year-old prelate, who leads Pathein Diocese’s Covid-19 response team, urged people to wear face masks, avoid gatherings and maintain social distancing of six feet. He also told people to eat healthy food, exercise, meditate and pray to fight the virus.

Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay recently started weekly broadcasts about Christian meditation.

In a 30-minutes video, wearing a white robe and sitting on a floor of the chapel, the bishop slowly explained in detail how to concentrate the mind and meditate.

The 60-year-old bishop has been carrying out Christian meditation programs for years and urged clergy and people to do meditation during the pandemic.

He called on clergy to do one hour of adoration, read books and do one hour’s work such as planting trees, gardening, collecting rubbish or cleaning the church compound.

When celebrating Sunday Masses online, Archbishop Tin Win always reminds the faithful to strictly obey Covid-19 guidelines from the health ministry.

Myanmar is considered among the most vulnerable to Covid-19 among the 11 countries in Southeast Asia along with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.

Myanmar’s fragile public health system has all but collapsed due to mismanagement by the military over the last six decades.

Myanmar remained unscathed by the pandemic for months with around 400 cases nationwide and just five deaths by mid-August.

But the Southeast Asian nation has been grappling with a second wave of infections as cases have spiked across the country after the first local transmission was reported in Rakhine on Aug. 16.

Yangon, its most populous city, has the highest number of cases followed by Mandalay, which has seen at least 200 new cases daily following last month’s general election.

The Central Committee for Prevention, Control and Treatment of Covid-19 has extended prevention measures until the end of December.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has reminded people to be extremely careful as cases have surged in the country. She admitted that the Yangon region was not able to contain the virus has become a challenge for the whole country.

“I wish to remind you all that it is very important for this commercial city to recover because this is very important for our economic recovery,” Suu Kyi said in a televised message on Dec. 11.

Myanmar had reported 109,512 coronavirus cases with 2,292 deaths as of Dec. 15. It has the third-highest number of cases in the ASEAN region behind the Philippines and Indonesia.

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