Two Salesians in the three most Southern provinces of Thailand
Yala, Thailand, 18 September -- The three most southern provinces of Thailand are for past many years rather dangerous territory. A variety of complex separatist movement with evident terrorist (insurgency since 1948, became more violent since 2001) attacks on the civil population make the life in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat rather challenging. In the majority Muslim population territory were killed in past 15 years more than 6000 civilians and wounded more than 12.000 local people.
Two Salesian priest - Fr. Joseph Suksan (Thai Salesian) and Fr. Anthony Miele (Italian Salesian missionary) are based in Yala parish and look after few hundreds of believers in these three provinces together with one diocesan priest resident in Betong (close to the Malaysia boarder) and with three small communities of SIHM Sisters based in Betong, Yala and Pattani.
Only strong faith and Salesian courage helps our Salesian Family members going ahead in spite of the discouraging situation with plenty of challenges: already small Catholic communities are getting thiner due to the fearful environment and many Catholics are leaving (in a small chapel with 6 families remains now only one last family or even in some other chapel all Catholics already left for safer places in the city of Hat Yai or others), nobody feels safe to travel before the sunrise or after the sunset (it keeps us as very prayerful people 'at home' in Yala compound), it's very hard to find catechists or other pastoral workers. Even a simple car driving on the main highways in our place become special due to dozens of road blocks with heavy armed military or police personnel.
Also the number of students in the few Catholic schools (diocese of Surat Thani, Bishop Joseph Prathan, SDB) in our three provinces is dropping significantly in past few years. Also the only technical school build by late Fr. Gustav Roosens, SDB near Pattani due to security reasons was not even able to open for education after the construction in 2013. In spite of this situation daily education and witnessing in Catholic schools is going on.
Yes, Salesian family members are present where nobody else like to go!
We are grateful to the support of the diocese and of the THA province in many ways!
We pray for peace, for more eventual volunteers (SDB or Lay) who would be able to encourage our little Catholic flock to remain in this situation to witness the faith among the majority Muslim population!