Myitkyina (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic population of the Burmese state of Kachin, in northern Myanmar, has a new parish: it was inaugurated in recent days, in the diocese of Myitkyina, the state capital, with a solemn popular celebration, in the presence of more than a thousand enthusiastic faithful and Msgr. Peter Hka Awng Tu, sent as the representative of Cardinal Charles Bo, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Myitkyina.
The new church and its permanent Catholic presence is located in the village of Zang Yaw and encompasses an area that altogether includes 11 villages, totaling about 500 souls.
The location is not easily accessible, amidst ice-covered mountains, and to reach it from Myitkyina city, given the distance of more than 570 km, requires a two-day journey by car and then two days on foot. It is considered one of the frontier mission sites, and in the past Catholic priests were rarely allowed to travel there to celebrate the sacraments or visit the local faithful.
"This will be an inclusive mission: it is not just for Catholics, but for all people, the poor, the needy and all those in need of reception", remarked Msgr. Hka Awng Tu. "The creation of the new parish will give the people of Zang Yaw village the opportunity to have the grace of the sacraments in a more stable way, to have a resident priest who will be able to listen and accompany God's people in their spiritual journey and pastoral work; it will also be able to make a contribution to the education and development of children in the area", he added.
Residents of the area expressed all their joy at having a priest, alongside the catechists who have so far dedicated their time to ensure pastoral service in the area.
The designated parish priest, Father Peter Zang Yaw Hpung, said he was happy and excited about the new mission. He has been working in the mass-media evangelization service at "Radio Veritas Asia", and now pledged all his commitment and apostolic zeal, entrusting his mission to the Lord. He assured that he will be in contact, communion and collaboration with other priests in neighboring districts to ensure the best possible assistance to the people, caught today by so many material and spiritual needs, while the civil conflict continues to generate precariousness and insecurity and create displaced people.
Clashes between the Burmese army and Kachin guerrillas continue in Kachin state in northern Myanmar, according to local Fides sources. The rebellion by ethnic groups such as the Kachin, who claim forms of autonomy, has been going on for 60 years, but anti-government resistance has increased significantly in the past year as the new pro-democracy armed movement (organized into the "People's Defence Forces") and armies historically composed of ethnic minorities have welded together. The Kachin are one of the strongest ethnic rebel groups, equipped with weapons and an army, the "Kachin Independence Army".
Settled in the state on the Myanmar-China border, they are a large majority Christian population of about 1.7 million people. In the territory, the Catholic Church is organized into two dioceses, the Diocese of Banmaw (with 40 thousand Catholics) and the Diocese of Myitkyina (with about 100 thousand faithful). (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 27/1/2023)
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