Sorrow and Soccer in Myanmar

12th December 2012 - by Eamonn O'Brien

While the public story on Myanmar is positive, the situation of the ethnic minorities continues to be a major challenge.

Most of them have made a ceasefire agreement with the government, but not peace. However, in Kachin state, where I have worked for the past 10 years, no such ceasefire is in place and the Kachins say none will come into place till a number of major conditions are fulfilled by the government. The Kachin made a ceasefire in 1994 and claim there has been no political development of any kind with the government since that time. On the day recently that the President called for peace there, the Northern Military commander launched an intense attack on the territory of the Kachin Independence army.

The war restarted about two years ago and more than 100, 000 people are in displaced persons’ camps, presenting huge challenges on the humanitarian services offered by the Dioceses of Myitkyina and Banmaw. The deadlock is causing havoc to the lives of ordinary men, women and children.

The Catechetical Renewal Program in the Diocese of Myitkyina and serving Banmaw, supported by the Columbans, is in its tenth session, having put about 500 of the 700 catechists through a two-months renewal programme. This unique catechetical contribution to the diocese was initiated by Fr Barney Way, an Australian Columban, in the mid 1940s.

We celebrated Columbans Day 2012 with a Mass in the catechetical school, a steaming noodle breakfast with the Columban sisters, and an intercity soccer final in the afternoon.  I presented the St. Columban’s cup to the winners.