Internally displaced people and local villagers attend a church service in Myitkyina, Kachin State in this picture taken on May 13, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

March 17 2023

Catholics in Myanmar have been asked to show solidarity during Lent with people suffering in the civil-war torn Southeast nation by reciting prayers and doing charity. 

Father Henry Eikhlein, administrator of Pathein diocese in the Irrawaddy region, a fertile delta close to the Bay of Bengal, said the diocese has urged the clergy to give the Lenten message of prayer, fasting and charity to parishioners.

“Catholics have been urged to do more on prayers and donations for the affected people to show solidarity,” Father Eikhlein told UCA News on March 16.

Ji Grawng, an internally displaced person (IDP) in a Church-run camp in conflict-torn Kachin State, told UCA News on March 15, “We have received envelopes for the Lenten charity. We will try to keep aside cash from our daily usage despite the fact that we can’t save much as we rely on aid from donors.” 

Grawng, a mother of three, wants to pray and fast for the people most in need in the country.

The donations will be sent to the Church’s social arm — Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar — for use during emergencies.

“We can say the collections from this year’s Lent will be prioritized for use with the displaced [persons],” an official from Karuna Myanmar, who did not want to be named, told UCA News on March 15.

Karuna Myanmar has been running a Lenten animation program since 2002 by inviting youths, catechists, and nuns. The participants are sent to parishes to mobilize the Lenten charity.

The annual program, however, was halted in 2021 after the military toppled the civilian government, causing political instability and social unrest in Myanmar, according to Church sources.

Parishes in conflict-affected dioceses are exempt from the Lenten charity drive, according to the sources.

Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, Kalay and Mandalay, out of 16 dioceses in Myanmar, have been severely hit as thousands have fled their homes and taken shelter in churches, convents, relatives’ homes and jungles.

More than 1.7 million people have been displaced across the country, including 1.3 million who were uprooted after the coup, according to a March 15 report by the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

In collaboration with Karuna Myanmar, the affected dioceses, including Loikaw and Pekhon in Kayah State, provide food and other essential items to people, cutting across religions. – UCA News