The pope’s apostolic visit raises hopes and expectations. For Patrick Loo Tone, president of Myanmar Council of Churches, the pope’s visit will open a window on the country’s Christians. Myanmar has 700,000 Catholics in 14 dioceses.
Yangon (AsiaNews) - For the first time in its history, Myanmar is about to welcome Pope Francis who will undertake an apostolic journey visiting the cities of Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw from 27 to 30 November 2017.
In Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, AsiaNews’s correspondent met some young Protestants to talk about the pontiff’s visit and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the western state of Rakhine, which has received worldwide attention.
"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, 21, a youth leader in the (Anglican) Church of the Province of Myanmar.
"Our country used to be a closed society for decades,” he explained. “With the new democratic government since last year, society is gradually opening up for change. And the visit of Pope Francis is a blessing."
“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, said Puia, 35, general secretary of the Myanmar Council of Churches.
“The country faces many problems,” he noted. “With the visit, Pope Francis will urge all to work for the progress and prosperity of the country,” he added. "I have registered to attend the function of Pope Francis in Yangon. I will take part in his Mass. I am excited about the event".
“Many people in the country do not know much about Christians in the country,” said Patrick Loo Tone, president of 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.” Pope Francis's visit will open a new window for all, he added.
Myanmar has a population of about 51 million people. Buddhists are 88.9 per cent, whilst Christians represent 6.3 per cent. Many Christians belong to tribal minorities still in conflict with Myanmar’s powerful military and the country’s nationalist movements and are often victims of violence and abuse. Catholics number about 700,000, and are waiting "with devotion and prayer the arrival of the pontiff."
Muslims account for 2.3 per cent of the population, and some are Rohingya, an ethnic group unrecognised by the state that is at the centre of a serious humanitarian crisis that has hit the region on the Bangladeshi border from where they originate.
"They (Rohingya Muslims) like any one of us need urgent care, patience and support,” said Za Dim, 18, a Christian student. “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.”
"As a young person from Myanmar, I wish that there should not be any major crisis related to Rohingya issue,” added the young woman.
She also noted that the Myanmar government of Aung San Suu Kyi is making concerted efforts to normalise the situation and address it in a peaceful and urgent manner.