CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 March 2019

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Christians begin to emerge in Myanmar

YANGON (UCAN): In a sign there is a push for change in the Union of Myanmar, 450 Christian people met with the opposition leader and national democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, on July 20 to discuss the role of young people in the nation.

Social commentators say that such a gathering would have been unthinkable even a year ago in the predominantly Buddhist country, as most Christians belong to minority groups, whose movements are severely restricted, and Suu Kyi was still under close surveillance.

In its annual assessment of religious freedom in Myanmar, the State Department of the United States of America notes, “There was no change in the government’s limited degree of respect for religious freedom. Religious activities and organisations were subject to restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.”

However, Suu Kyi stated that following the opening of the new parliament in March last year and the subsequent talk of reforms, young Christians in Myanmar should take a greater role in the national development.

“The most important question is what do we want our country to be?” Suu Kyi told those gathered at the home of Archbishop Charles Bo in Yangon.

The archbishop pointed out that young people in Myanmar had few opportunities in the past, especially in the filed of employment.

He added that this has led a large number of the brightest young people leaving the country in search of work and greater opportunities.

He urged young people “to start running with confidence and take part in building the nation, whether in education, health or social development.”

Whether or not this eventuates will largely depend on how confident they feel, given the previous half a century of restrictions.

Shaung Shaung, a young Baptist woman who attended the gathering, said Christians were starting to see tangible signs of greater religious freedom in Myanmar, so their activities no longer need to be hidden underground.

“We need to show our ability in the right way and not bury it in a hidden place,” she told UCA News. 

“We should work together to get involved in the right areas for the development of our country, regardless of what religion we are,” she concluded.

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