Young Protestant leaders in Myanmar regard the upcoming visit of Pope Francis as a blessing to a nation that is gradually opening up. The Pope is visiting the cities of Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, November 27-30, 2017, after which he moves on to neighbouring Bangladesh.
"The apostolic journey of Pope Francis to Myanmar, a Buddhist majority country, shows that its society is more open now than before," said Nant Myat Noe Aein, a youth leader in the Church of the Province of Myanmar that is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. "Our country used to be a closed society for decades,” the 21-year old youth from Yangon explained to AsiaNews. “With the new democratic government since last year, society is gradually opening up for change. And the visit of Pope Francis is a blessing," he said.
Another young man, Puia, general secretary of the Myanmar Council of Churches said, “The visit of the Holy Father has put Myanmar in the limelight of the world, which is interested to know more about the country and its people.” Speaking to AsiaNews, the 35-year old acknowledged the country has many problems. However, “with the visit, Pope Francis will urge all to work for the progress and prosperity of the country,” he added. He said he has registered himself for the papal Mass in Yangon and is excited about it.
“Many people in the country do not know much about Christians in the country,” said Patrick Loo Tone, president of the Myanmar Council of Churches. “With the Pope's coming, both inside and outside, people and the world are interested to know about the nation, people, and their issues and concerns.” The visit of Pope Francis will open a new window for all, he added.
Myanmar’s some 51 million population is nearly 89 percent Buddhist with Christians forming 6.3 per cent. They are mostly from among the tribal minorities that are in conflict with Myanmar’s powerful military and the country’s nationalist movements and are often subject to violence and abuse. Catholics numbering some 450,000 are spread across 16 dioceses.
Muslims account for 2.3 per cent of the population, and some are Rohingya, an ethnic group unrecognized by the state that is at the centre of a serious humanitarian crisis that has hit the region bordering Bangladesh.
Za Dim, an 18-year old Christian student noted the Rohingya Muslims are like any one of them needing urgent care, patience and support. “The Myanmar government with the cooperation of the international community and international aid agencies need to address the issue in an amicable way considering their human rights and dignity,” she said, hoping there will be no major crisis related to the Rohingya issue. Dim also noted that the Myanmar government of Aung San Suu Kyi is making concerted efforts to normalize the situation and address it in a peaceful and urgent manner. (Source: AsiaNews)