ASIA/MYANMAR - Fasting from hatred: in time of Lent, the life of displaced people of the civil conflict

Wednesday, 22 February 2023 prayer   lent   fasting   charity   displaced persons  

Hakha (Agenzia Fides) - "Let us fast from hatred towards others, even our enemies, to discover Christ who lives in them. Let us fast from pessimism and the dark thoughts that gather in our hearts today, to fill us with Christian hope. Let's fast from worries about the future, because we want to be filled with trust and faith in God. Let's fast today from everything that separates us from Christ Jesus, to be close to Him in all respects, in this situation of labor and suffering". With these words and in a penitential spirit, the faithful of Myanmar, many of whom are internally displaced today, experience the beginning of Lent and celebrate Ash Wednesday, as Father Joseph Phe Lin Lay recounts, speaking in particular of the faithful in Chin state, in Western Myanmar.
The faithful of the region, with a Christian majority, gathered in prayer and in a spirit of penance, while a civil conflict rages in the nation which, as stated by international institutions, can no longer be defined as "low intensity". The priest encouraged the faithful to always hold on, in a time of pain, mourning and precariousness, to the Word of God, "which illuminates every moment of life, the moments of joy and those of suffering". The faithful of the Chin ethnic group, one of Myanmar's ethnic minorities pray intensely for the nation, asking God for peace, justice, healing, reconciliation, expressing closeness and solidarity with all those who suffer, especially the most vulnerable, and bearing witness to faith and charity with simple gestures such as gathering and praying together, sharing the fast, donating time and attention to comfort those who are sick or injured.
"The Word of God in the Gospel last Sunday, February 19, resonates strongly among the Catholics of Myanmar, of all ethnic groups: love your enemies", says to Fides Joseph Kung, a lay Catholic and director of a private university institute in Yangon, recalling that the nation is the terrain of firefights between the military and the Popular Defense Forces - born spontaneously in the aftermath of the coup. With the great suffering of civilians, the fighting involves the territory of five dioceses (out of the 16 total of Myanmar): they are the dioceses of Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay and Mandalay. In this situation, Lent is lived in a climate of fear, uncertainty, insecurity, precariousness, given that "the exodus of people continues who, out of desperation, flees from villages where the army launches cruel offensives, without caring for the lives of innocents". The displaced, Kung reports, seek refuge in the forests or go to refugee camps. Sometimes they seek shelter in places such as churches and schools, institutes which, as we have seen in the past months, "are no longer entirely safe places because the army never spares firing artillery shells at churches", he notes, recalling, among the latest episodes, that on 15 January the Burmese army set fire to the ancient Catholic church of the Assumption, in the archdiocese of Mandalay, and on 4 February artillery shells hit the church of Our Lady of Sorrows in the diocese of Pekhon. In this situation, however, animated by faith, "let us fast from discouragement in order to live gratitude to God, who is love and hope; let us fast from bitterness to welcome and forgive those who hurt us", concludes Kung. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/2/2023)