08 February 2013

Appeal from the Bishop of Myitkyina, Myanmar (Burma)

Skyline of Myitkyina

The Columbans first went to what was then Burma in October 1936 and went to the mountainous area of the north where the Kachins live. Priests of the Paris Foreign Missions Society had already been there for many years. The area the Columbans were asked to take care of has become two dioceses, Myitkyina [MITCH in awe] and Banmaw, also known as Bhamo.

There has been an ongoing conflict in the Kachin area for many years, a second phase beginning in June 2011. It is in the context of that conflict that the Diocese of Myitkyina issued this statement the other day.

St. Columban's Cathedral, Aungnan Yeiktha, Myitkyina 01011
Tel: (+95)-74-23017, Fax (+95)-74-23016, Email: myitkyinabishop@gmail.com
 Call from the Catholic Church in Myitkyina to all parties in Conflict in Kachin Region  to halt hostilities and begin the Journey  towards  Peace Based on Justice
Date : 3 February 2013
We, the Catholic Faithful,   guided by the Bishop of Diocese,  Rev Dr Francis, Priests  and religious of Myitkyina Diocese, urgently release this message  to all parties in the ongoing conflict in Kachin Areas :

Uphold the principle ''Church and State are separate” and has no political agenda in its structure and function yet called to collaborate in peace and justice and the human development of all.   Church is Catholic – that is open to all people, their needs, their aspirations and their desire for human dignity.

Are guided by the teachings of Christ and the bible, inspired by the Catholic Social teaching handed over by the Popes, specially the New Year Peace Day message of the Pope, which urge all Christians to work for peace and promotion of harmony among communities

Desire to collaborate with all like minded men and women, structures that work for promotion of peace and human dignity.

Are concerned deeply about the year long violent conflict in Kachin area. As a church we walk with our displaced people, watch  their life being destroyed by war,  their families fragmented by  depressing life in the displaced  camps.

Are deeply concerned about the escalation of war in the recent weeks, use of heavy weaponry, aerial bombing, increasing lack of clarity about conflict zones and civilian areas, unequal warfare waged during holy days of our faith, unacceptable conflict practice that force thousands to be displaced  exposing children and women to life threatening sickness  in the acute winter.

Wish to point out to all parties in conflict that we are all brothers and sisters in this God given land and ferocity of war of the strong one against the weak, the principle of might is right never brings peace, but more conflict and more displacement and closes all avenues of peaceful resolution of  major issues forcing generations after generation to indulge in a war without any result to anyone.

Are  guided by the international human rights instruments, our faith that seeks justice and we strongly condemn all human rights abuses by anyone – murder, violation to the integrity of a person, subhuman living conditions, arbitrary  detentions, deportation, disappearance, recruitment of children into conflict.
Strongly  Urge all parties to return to the peace negotiation, since peace is possible, peace is the only way, knowing that five decades of war has yielded nothing but more hatred, more agony.

Support all peace efforts that takes into consideration a peace making that is built on true justice, the peace dividends of the 1994 cease fire agreements, the consensus arrived at Panglong to accept  the ‘unity and diversity’ principle.

Urge all parties the root causes of the present conflict, the favoritism shown to one race and religion and language that opened a festering wound in the cultural heart of many communities that can be healed only by true federalism,  a meaningful participation in decision making and the sharing of resources.

Are strengthened by our Faith that peace is possible and human beings are brothers and sisters to one another and in this land we can live in peace and prosperity since God has blessed this golden land with too many resources.

As members of the church and Citizens of this Country, this is  our appeal to all the parties and urge all to  cease war and return to negotiating table.  We are intensely involved in the  care and comfort of the victims of war in the camps and in remote villages.  Despite our  meager  resources we have reached out our suffering poor with support from well wishers and local people.  We want our people to go back home. That is possible only when the war gets over and that is possible when  a peace based on Justice is initiated through talks.

On behalf of the Faithful

BISHOP OF MYITKYINA  and Church Leaders  


Here is a video that shows many parts of Myitkyina, including St Columban's Cathedral.

In the September-October 2011 issue of Misyon, the online magazine I edit for the Columbans in the Philippines, we carried an article by Arlenne B. Villahermosa, Remembering the Columbans. Arlenne is a Columban Lay Missionary from Talisay City, Cebu. The article includes the following video of the visit in 2009 of Bishop Michael Smith of Meath, Ireland, to the Diocese of Banmaw. St Columban's, Dalgan Park,Navan, where the Irish headquarters of the Columbans, where most Irish - and some American - Columbans studied, where many older Columbans are now living, is located in the Diocese of Meath.

Bishop Smith mentions Columbans who are buried in Burma. Many of those buried in Dalgan Park in his diocese worked as missionaries in the Diocese of Banmaw that he was visiting and in the Diocese of Myitkyina from which it was carved.

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