08 September 2015

Internally displaced persons in northern Myanmar

Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam 

The link to 'Diocese of Banmaw' above gives an excellent summary of the Church in northern Burma, now known as Myanmar, and of the involvement of the Columbans there since 1936. [Thanks to UCANews.com]

The letter below was sent by Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw (formerly Bhamo), a diocese created in 2006 when separated from the Diocese of Myitkyina. The two dioceses cover the Kachin State, the very mountainous and northernmost part of the country, an area a little larger than Ireland and a little smaller than Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines.

To put some perspective on the situation the bishop is writing about, the population of the Kachin State, which the Dioceses of Myitkyina and Banmaw cover, in 2012/2013 was around 1,450,000 and the Catholic population around 117,000, or 8.1 percent of the total. As recently as 2006 the population was around 2,400,000. (Statistics from Catholic-hierarchy.org).

The term 'IDPs' means 'Internally Displaced Persons', that is persons who are refugees in their own country.

St Patrick's Cathedral, Banmaw [Source]

August 26, 2015

Dear All,

It has been over 4 years since the renewed armed conflict between the government troops and the Kachin Independence Army broke out in Kachin State. To date there are more than 12000 IDPs in Kachin State and northern Shan State. No peace agreement has been reached between government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in spite of several rounds of peace negotiation between the two parties. The number of the IDPs continues increasing due to sporadic fighting between the Government Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Recently the events of fierce battles between the two parties took place near Sumpyi Yang and and Htingbai Yang, Mali Yang in Putao and Sumpra Bum townships. It is reported that the Government Army is launching offensive attack against KIA deploying thousands of soldiers. These are provoking the displacement of several thousands of people in the areas affected by the battles. No funding agencies or even local organizations are allowed to go into the areas to help the IDPs.

The Church in Myanmar through Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar has been taking care of 75% of the IDPs in Kachin State and northern Shan State with the help of partners and funding agencies. Now, UN Organizations and other major funding agencies are cutting off 20 % of the support they were giving to the IDPs previously. Therefore, the church is very much concerned for the future of the IDPs and the Bishops, Priests, Religious and the laity met together on June 20, 2015 in Lashio and issued a Statement (Issues and Directions) on the conflict and the IDPs.

Therefore, I would like to invite all those people and organizations of good will to join with us in praying for the victims of the armed conflict and in the efforts of building durable peace in our country.

Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam

Bishop of Banmaw

Fr Jehoon Augustine Lee, Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina, Fr Euikyun Carlo Jung at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church, Tanghpre

Fathers Jehoon and Euikyun are from Korea and were ordained last year. They are now based in Myanmar, Father Euikyun being the Spokesperson of a the Columban mission team there which consists of four priests, two from Ireland and two from Korea, and three lay missionaries, two form Korea and one from the Philippines.

One of a number of videos commemorating the Golden Jubilee of St Patrick's Cathedral, Banmaw, in 2012. It includes photos of the Columbans who worked in the Kachin State between 1936 and 1977.

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