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Myanmar's top monk donates to pope's Covid-19 fund

Sitagu Sayadaw gives $10,000 and food items to the needy as the country grapples with coronavirus

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Myanmar's top monk donates to pope's Covid-19 fund

Archbishop Marco Tin Win presents a gift to Sitagu Sayadaw at the donation ceremony at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Mandalay, on April 16. (Photo: Radio Veritas Asia-Myanmar Service)

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A prominent monk from Myanmar, Ashin Nyanissara known as Sitagu Sayadaw, has made donations to the coronavirus emergency fund set up by Pope Francis.

On April 16, Archbishop Marco Tin Win of Mandalay Archdiocese received US$10,000 from Sitagu Sayadaw.

The monk also provided bags of rice, cooking oil, beans, onions, beans and salt for orphanages and others in need in Mandalay Archdiocese.

At the ceremony held in Sacred Heart Cathedral, the monk said he gave the contributions as a sign of compassion common to all religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

“All we need to do is work hand in hand based on a common platform to tackle Covid-19 and carry out charitable work through solidarity,” Sitagu Sayadaw said.

Archbishop Tin Win said: “As a real friend, I am impressed with his contributions and it shows goodwill and solidarity with people who are most in need in times of crisis. His contributions send a message of interfaith harmony to people across the country.” 

The monk also donated rice and other food items to homes for the aged, a deaf and dumb school, a cancer foundation, orphanages and internally displaced persons across the country.

Sitagu Sayadaw has close ties with Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon and Archbishop Tin Win, who have worked together to promote interfaith dialogue in the Buddhist-majority country.

The Buddhist cleric had a private meeting with Pope Francis during his visit to Myanmar in November 2017. He also met with the previous pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, in Rome in 2011.

Sitagu Sayadaw sits on interfaith councils and travels the world to promote his humanitarian efforts and interfaith dialogue.

He is founder and head of the Sitagu Buddhist Academies. The organization has funded many social projects in Myanmar including water pumps and hospitals in various regions.

He has been lauded for his charity work, especially in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 which killed more than 100,000 in the country’s delta region.

The monk’s donation to Pope Francis’ emergency fund came a day before Myanmar celebrates the traditional New Year as streets across the country are silent amid the government’s cancellation of the water festival to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Myanmar had recorded 85 cases including four fatalities and two recovered as of April 17.

Archbishop Marco Tin Win, Sitagu Sayadaw and monks attend the donation ceremony at Sacred Heart Cathedral. (Photo: Radio Veritas Asia-Myanmar Service)

Church on the front line

On April 6, Pope Francis established an emergency fund at the Pontifical Mission Societies to help communities in the Church’s mission territories affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope gave an initial contribution of US$750,000 and asked church organizations to contribute to the fund.

“In her task of evangelization, the Church is often on the front line of major threats to human well-being,” said Cardinal Lois Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. “The Holy Father is calling upon the Church’s vast network to face the challenges ahead.” 

The pope supports more than 1,110 dioceses, mostly in Asia, Africa, Oceania and part of South America, through the Pontifical Mission Societies.

About 2.16 million coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide with 145,568 deaths, according to the latest data.

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