Catholic leaders from across Myanmar recently came together to discuss plans and strategies in rebuilding the nation laid waste by nearly 50 years of brutal military rule. Seventy-two bishops, priests, nuns and laypeople attended the “Mission planning for nation building” workshop held at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) office in Yangon June 8-10.
“We come together as one mind, one heart to find a common platform so as to effectively contribute to the building of the nation,” said Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam of Banmaw who is based in conflict-torn Kachin State. Bishop Gam, who is also chairman of Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar, said the Catholic Church should play a greater role in nation building especially in through education and healthcare.
5-YEAR ROAD MAP
The three-day workshop focused on finalizing the church’s vision, mission and objectives for a five-year plan 2018-2022. During the workshop, participants discussed and formulated a pastoral social strategy that prioritizes five sectors: education, integral human development, interreligious dialogue, women empowerment and environmental justice.
Father Maurice Nyunt Wai, CBCM executive secretary, said it is the synergy of all dioceses of Myanmar that will contribute to the church’s role as nation builders. “As part of Myanmar, the Catholic Church is ready to take part in nation building,” said Father Nyunt Wai who is also a member of the steering committee drawing up the five-year plan. He told UCANEWS that Catholic leaders have been preparing a roadmap since the past two years. They have been conducting other consultation meetings and workshops, he said.
The pledge from the church comes at a time when Myanmar is emerging from decades of military rule after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the 2015 elections and took office in April last year.
RETURN OF NATIONALIZED SCHOOLS
Cardinal Charles Bo Archbishop of Yangon called for the return of nationalized Catholic schools to help revitalize the country’s neglected education system. Critics have long blamed the former military dictatorship for ignoring Myanmar’s school system for decades.
Myanmar was considered the best-educated nation in Southeast Asia in the 1950s thanks to quality education provided by Christian schools. Most of these schools were nationalized in 1965 after General Ne Win seized power.