Pekhon (Agenzia Fides) - "We live in the midst of a mixture of joy and sorrow. We were able to celebrate Easter in the city, and this is a source of joy, but with concern and fear. Few of the faithful have the opportunity or the courage to come to churches because of the unstable situation. In some churches, in the villages outside the city of Pekhon, Easter was not celebrated: liturgical celebrations were not held due to violence and unsafe conditions. There are still many displaced Catholics, who take refuge in the city, in villages not affected by the clashes or in the jungle, in places they consider safer. The political and social situation continues to be critical. We are in God's hands.
We pray every day for the future of our Myanmar people and invoke Divine mercy," is the heartfelt testimony given to Fides by Father Aniceto Dereh Day, parish priest of the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Vicar General of the diocese of Pekhon. His diocese, in eastern Myanmar, encompasses a mostly hilly and mountainous territory that, at the civil level, is partly in the State of Shan and partly in the State of Kayah. Along with the dioceses of Loikaw, Hakha, Kalay and Mandalay, the Pekhon diocese, home to 55,000 Catholics, is among the territories most severely affected by the ongoing civil conflict in Myanmar.
The priest recalls that on Palm Sunday, April 2, the village of Shimlaw, in the Pekhon area, inhabited mainly by Catholics, was hit by military shelling: several houses were damaged and a rocket fell near the Catholic Church of the Infant Jesus, killing two people.
Father Dereh Day recounts: "Every day we hear the sound of gunfire and the acrid smell of gunpowder and smoke that reaches the city. The days go on as the noisy firing of rockets continues. Fear creeps among families, it is dangerous to carry out daily social, economic and pastoral activities. We try to be present with small works of charity and comfort toward the displaced. Let us pray to God for rapid peace and tranquility in the midst of this turmoil that surrounds us".
"In this week after Easter - continued the Vicar - we prayed in particular to obtain Divine mercy, trusting in God, and we will celebrate the feast established by John Paul II in 1992 saying: 'Lord, have mercy on us and on the whole world'. We need divine mercy to reawaken trust in the faithful, in this very difficult moment".
Alongside the priests, there are the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in the diocese of Pekhon, who arrived from Loikaw and have been present in the diocese since 2018 and devote themselves mainly to the education and care of children. Their work and dedication to families in distress and destitution, the priest concluded, are concrete signs of God's love and mercy. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 15/4/2023)