The Catholic Bishops’ Conference and Missio are continuing to deepen relationships with the Catholic Church in Thailand and Myanmar, following a successful visit led by Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the International Affairs Department and Monsignor Canon James Cronin, Director of Missio.
Over two weeks the delegation travelled to Bangkok, Yangon and Myitkyina to meet with Church leaders and tour projects including children’s centres, orphanages and IDP camps, many of which are directly supported by the Church in England and Wales.
Reflecting on the visit, Bishop Lang said: “The Catholic Church faces two very different sets of challenges and opportunities in Thailand and Myanmar. We will continue to strengthen relations and mutual solidarity with our brothers and sisters in both countries.”
The delegation’s visit to Myanmar included meetings with the Most Rev Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, who has recently been outspoken about rising levels of sectarian violence in the country; the Rt Rev Francis Daw Tang, Bishop of Myitkyina who is leading efforts to support the peace process and care for internally displaced persons in Kachin State; and U Tin Oo, Vice-Chairperson of the National League for Democracy, the opposition party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Bishop Lang said: “This is a time of great hope and Myanmar is undergoing many positive transitions. Yet inter-communal violence, ongoing conflict in Kachin State, and the plight of more than 200,000 displaced people, pose a continued affront to human dignity. We have a duty to support the local Church as it works to create a better future for all of Myanmar’s people.”
Monsignor Canon Cronin said: “The Church in Myanmar is working tirelessly to promote peace, care for those affected by conflict and tackle high levels of poverty throughout the country. Missio is supporting a number of Dioceses including Myitkyina where many families rely upon the Church, having lost their homes and livelihoods in the recent fighting. There are signs of change in Myanmar but there is also widespread suffering. It is important that we reaffirm our commitment to the country at this critical time.”
The UK-based Thai Children’s Trust, (TCT) which supports Catholic partners in the region working with child refugees and orphans has warmly welcomed the initiative taken by Bishop Declan Lang and Misio to visit colleagues in Myanmar and Thailand.
TCT director Andrew Scadding said: "Myanmar is filled with both a consuming hope and need for peace, and a terrible fear that the promise of progress will once again prove false. The best chance the peace process has is that it builds so much moral momentum that it cannot be stopped. Visits like Bishop Declan’s demonstrate that the Catholic Church in England and Wales is committed to helping to build that moral momentum, and will be welcome not only to Catholics in Burma and on the Thai border, but to all people of goodwill who pray for peace in their own tradition."