03/27/2013, 00.00
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Thai Catechist on mission among the tribal Hmong, 12 new baptisms at Easter

by Weena Kowitwanij
It is the story of 33-year-Precha Sipongpiyaratsamee, active in the province of Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand. Among the catechumens, the majority of Buddhist faith and one linked to the traditional cult of the ethnic group. Priest and scholar: Retrieving the element of sharing and respect for the family.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - For more than 10 years he has taught catechism among the Hmong community spread across 17 villages in the province of Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand, resulting in continuous conversions to Catholicism. And this year, at Easter, a group of 12 people will be baptized after having completed the journey of the catechumenate. This is the story of 33-year-Precha Sipongpiyaratsamee, educator and volunteer of the Diocese of Chiang Mai, who speaks of his mission among the "15 or 20 families of each village, most of whom make their living from farming or raising animals."

The Hmong are an ethnic group who live mainly in the mountainous areas of southern China and in the remote areas of Southeast Asia such as Vietnam (victims of persecution because they were considered "allies" of the U.S. during the war), Myanmar and northern Thailand . "There are at least 12 people, aged between 20 and 50 - Precha tells AsiaNews - who will be baptized this year at Easter. Most of them are of the Buddhist faith, while the oldest, called Santi, follows the traditional animist religion.

Precha recalls the years of formation in catechesim and a meeting with Fr. Sadhit Saie, rector of St. Mary Church in Mae Son Hing, who sent him into the center of Chiang Mai for a further course of study of Christian doctrine. "I have become a full-time catechist - said the man - in the middle of the Hmong community" where he has spent "over 10 years" with the ethnic groups. Always eager to deepen the elements of faith, Precha followed a course - for a period of three years - in a formation center in Bangkok.

Among the various scholars working in the area there is also Fr. Cyril Niphot Tienvihan, director of a center for the teaching of religion and culture of the Diocese of Chiang Mai. He stresses that "the family is the center of the economic system of the Hmong community", in which there is widespread sense of solidarity, exchange and mutual cooperation between the different elements of the group.


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