ASIA/MYANMAR - The last "seven words" of Christ, inspiration for Kachin Christians, in the midst of violence

Wednesday, 20 September 2023 spirituality   faith   pilgrimages  

Myitkyina (Agenzia Fides) - The Christian faithful of the Kachin ethnic group, in the diocese of Myitkyina, in northern Myanmar, have only one source of inspiration in a time of suffering and trial marked by civil war: Christ crucified. His last "seven words", pronounced on the cross have a deep meaning for them and are a source of grace and a compass for the lives of Kachin Christians, as well as for all Christians in Myanmar. This was the guiding principle for more than 30,000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Myitkyina who took part in a pilgrimage to Mount Alam Bum and celebrated a communal service at the top of the mountain. Catholics, other Christians and Buddhists took part in the pilgrimage and Eucharistic celebration, which took place on September 13th and 14th, the liturgical feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Eighty percent of the participants were youth, accompanied by Msgr. Andrea Ferrante, representative of the Holy See, and Bishop Emeritus of Myitkyina, Francis Daw Tang, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Yangon, Noel Saw Naw Aye, and Archbishop of Yangon and Apostolic Administrator of Myitkyina. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo.
In his homily, Cardinal Bo addressed the last seven words of Christ and updated them in the "here and now" of the baptized in Myanmar. The first sentence illustrates the compassion of Jesus, who forgives his enemies by saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Lk 23:34). "This means for Christians in Myanmar to follow the path of reconciliation: to forgive and seek forgiveness; revenge diminishes our humanity", reads the text sent to Fides. The second sentence offers the hope of salvation that Jesus assures the repentant thief next to him: "Amen, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:43). "The clear message for us today is to believe in the saving power of Christ crucified; the cross is our path to salvation," said the Cardinal. In the third sentence, Christ entrusts his mother to the disciple John and says: "Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). "Jesus underlines the importance of love and the community of believers. Just as Jesus did not leave us alone, today we want to offer ourselves to one another and build our community with the love of Jesus," the sermon continues. A cry addressed to the Father forms the fourth sentence: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"? (Mt 27:46). "In this heartbreaking cry, Jesus reminds us of the immeasurable sacrifice he made for us. From this we can draw a lesson: in a country and a history marked by suffering, we should exercise the gifts of compassion and mercy and understand the pain of the miserable, the refugees and the abandoned", while the number of internally displaced people in the country is constantly increasing due to the civil conflict and now stands at more than 2.6 million. With the fifth sentence, Christ expresses his thirst for peace, reconciliation and forgiveness by saying: "I am thirsty" (Jn 19:28). Beyond the physical suffering, these words have a deep spiritual meaning, said the Cardinal: they refer to "the spiritual thirst for the presence of God in every person" and remind us that "our origin and our destiny lie in God." Creator and Comforter, the only and safe refuge for the people of Myanmar who are going through the immense suffering of war.
With the sixth sentence, Jesus says that faith leads to final salvation: "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). "He proclaims the completion of his work of redemption on the cross, which frees us from all sins. So we should no longer concentrate so much on our sins, but on the extraordinary grace of redemption," the sermon says. The final witness is an act of trust that is fundamental for Burmese Christians today: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46). "Jesus entrusted his spirit to the care of the Father and teaches us to put all our trust in God, even in the face of suffering and persecution. The key word, the secret, is surrender to the love of God, which becomes our only certainty and gives peace and serenity even in the face of death," the sermon concludes. Diocesan Vicar General Peter Hka Awng Lei noted: "Climbing the mountain and meditating on the seven words of Christ was an experience of deep consolation for the faithful of Myitkyina," where, out of a total population of around 2 .5 million inhabitants, there are approximately 100 thousand Catholics, spread across 32 parishes. As local sources confirm to Fides, in Kachin state, in northern Myanmar, clashes continue between the Burmese army and Kachin guerrillas. The uprisings by ethnic minority groups such as the Kachin - demanding forms of autonomy - have been going on for some 60 years, but resistance to the government has increased in the last year with new alliances between the armed democratic movement (organized in the so-called "People's Defense Forces) and the armies of the ethnic minorities, have increased significantly. The Kachin are one of the strongest rebel ethnic groups, equipped with weapons and an army, the "Kachin Independence Army". The Kachin live in the state on the border between Myanmar and China and are predominantly Christian, with a total population of 1.7 million. The Catholic Church in this area is structured into two dioceses, the Diocese of Banmaw (with 40,000 Catholics) and the Diocese of Myitkyina (with around 100,000 faithful). (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/9/2023)