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By our own correspondent

       EAO, 8 September 2022 -- Within the worldwide scenario of so many wars going on, with the overwhelming 11 million refugees from Ukraine, with the tragedy of the Tigrayan people in Ethiopia, we may easily forget our brothers and sisters in Myanmar. In the mainstream world news there is almost a complete silence. Fortunately the Catholic media provides us almost daily with a real situation update (Asia News, UCA News, FIDES etc). We can connect and make these 'news' a food for our prayer, since the 4th military coup (Feb 1, 2021) the suffering of ordinary people continues to grow:

  • More than 1.28 million out of 46 million of Myanmar's population are internally displaced. For example in Kayah State at least 170,000 civilians (more than 50% of 300,000 population) have been forced to leave their homes and villages
  • Refugees: more than 40,000 have crossed into India (Mizoram state) with 400,000 mainly Karen refugees in various camps along the boarder in Thailand
  • About 50% of Myanmar's population is living in poverty
  • Some 8 million people are in dire need of food, a serious challenge
  • More than 2200 civilians, including many children were killed
  • From 12,000 - 15,000 people were arrested, 4 were executed recently
  • The Military have burned more than 30,000 homes, most of them in the Buddhist-Bamar majority areas in central Myanmar
  • The Military continues to target Churches and Christian institutions - hospitals, schools; dozens of churches and villages with their fields were burnt
  • At least 5 Catholic dioceses (Loikaw, Kalay, Hakha, Pekhon and Mandalay) of the 16 in Myanmar have been severely affected by ongoing conflicts.
  • Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who lead the democratically elected government, is held in prison, with multiple sentences added onto the initial 11-year jail term.

       On the ground at least 350 militias have formed the People's Defence Forces (PDF) and have shifted the fighting from the bush to towns and the outskirts of provincial cities, controlling border areas close to Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh. ASEAN (Association of East Asian Nations) is trying various ways to help, including having the NUG (National Unity Government.) recognised.

       Pope Francis invites us 'Don't forget the people of Myanmar' during the Angelus.

       Salesian Cardinal Charles Bo (Archbishop of Yangon) warned on his Australia trip that 'the Military are trying to intimidate the whole population ... by end of this year they presume everything will be quiet again and they will not have any resistance anymore, because of the atrocities and intimidations that the military is carrying out - villages are wiped out and burned..."

       Outgoing Apostolic Nuncio of Myanmar, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam in his thanksgiving Mass (Sept 2, 2022) in Yangon cathedral said: 'In this time of the trial of our Myanmar brothers and sisters, Our Holy Father Pope Francis has been following closely the situation... encouraging dialogue among all different parties in violence.." Indeed some 50,000=100,000 IDP (internally displaced people) receive food aid from the Catholic Church.

       For the Salesian Family in Myanmar daily life goes on: 33 Salesian perpetually professed confreres are just on their last day of annual retreat, absent only those who made their annual retreat in Hua Hin with the Rector Major (May 2022) and the deacons who will do it next December before their priestly ordination. Most of the candidates and confreres in initial formation are growing in vocations within the country, and the vocation blessing continues with a younger generation of formators. Also the 'only two' Salesian Brothers are preparing for the canonization of Br Artemides Zatti.

       One of the SDB leaders shares: " ... I passionately dream about creating our communities as true homes where everyone feels loved and accepted. I truly believe that when every community becomes a true home for the confreres, the province will be a home to all the confreres and above all to all our poor boys."

       Yes, in the local view "the situation is changing every day, all is confused and very complex". Myanmar Salesians appeal to all of us: "Dear friends around the EAO (East Asia-Oceania) region, kindly pray for us and I always remember you with much love and gratitude for all the inspiration you have given me and for all the care and concern you have for all of us."

       In the early days after the military coup in February 2021 we were praying, campaigning and trying to raise some solidarity funds, but with time passing we have easily forgotten. Let's open our hearts to the cry of the Myanmar people with some concrete solidarity action, today!

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