Burmese nun: ‘My country’s calvary, reduced to hunger by war'
by sr. Regina *

Sister Regina, of the Sisters of Repair, offers her testimony. “Without humanitarian aid, children and the elderly are suffering in the forests because the roads are blocked by the military. Conscription is used to provide human shields to force the rebels to kill their own countrymen. Our sisters remain close to the people, walking with them, even in tears, amid the dangers and the pain.”

Milan (AsiaNews) – Yesterday, the Centro PIME in Milan held a special prayer for peace in Myanmar at the San Francesco Saverio church. As noted a few days ago, the Southeast Asian country will mark another Easter amid war and suffering, without freedom. For this year’s paschal celebrations, we publish the testimony of Sister Regina, a Burmese member of the Sisters of Repair, a religious congregation founded by the Venerable Fr Carlo Salerio, one of the first PIME missionaries. The Sisters have been present in Myanmar since 1895 and through many of its local members, it continues to serve this country even in its hour of greatest need.

Three years have passed since a coup d'état destabilised Myanmar’s budding democracy; since then, the situation has got worse in many ways.

Amid the deaths, many of them of young people, the countless wounded, the torched houses, the sheltering in forests, life camped in precarious conditions, the painful and depressing silence of international institutions, there is an alarming danger lurking, that of hunger. With food prices rising, they have become unaffordable for so many people, resulting far too often in people stealing from each other.

I can personally testify to this. About a week ago, the brother of a friend of mine was riding his motorcycle when a group of people attacked him, beat him up, and stole his motorcycle. He ended up in hospital and is still in serious conditions.

Hungry people are looting shops and everyone is living in fear, worried about surviving. Many communities, especially their children and elderly folks, are suffering because they have been forced to abandon their homes and flee into the forest, to remote places with no drinking water, no food, where torrential rains and winds prevent them from sleeping. This is happening in many parts of Myanmar, not just in a few isolated places.

As a result of the fighting, humanitarian aid is not getting through since the military has blocked the roads and planes are mercilessly bombing refugee camps, schools, hospitals, shops, and churches, wherever people try to take refuge.

At night, in addition to aerial bombardments and power outages forcing people to stay in the dark, gun-toting soldiers raid homes, arresting people without grounds, sowing panic in entire villages.

When children hear or see a plane, they run away seeking a hiding place. In addition to the pain caused by death and wounds, a lot of grief is due to the inability to communicate with organisations that might intervene to alleviate the suffering.

Young Burmese are aware that their "life given" contributes to the construction of the longed-for democracy and are determined not to go back. The many ethnic groups that make up our people have also joined the People's Defence Force (PDF) to stand up to the military regime.

On 12 March, the regime issued a law drafting young Burmese men aged 18 to 35 and women up to 28, and even minors. The intention is to use them as human shields, placing them on the frontline where there is no way out, forced to kill their own countrymen, thus fuelling ethnic and religious conflict.

To escape such inhumanity, young people have two options: either join the revolutionary forces, the People's Defence Force, and fight the regime, or risk leaving for abroad. Recently, a young man committed suicide at the thought of being drafted by the regime.

In light of such a tragedy, our institute tries to help people as much as possible with food and spiritual support. Some Sisters live together with the refugees to be close to the children and mothers, creating a semblance of normal life in the forest with teaching, catechism, and other activities.

This, too, is very hard, because the military control our convents and do not allow people to travel and move. Yet, the institute remains committed to the people, walking with them, amid tears and pain, facing daily challenges and dangers.

Myanmar’s Church has taken some steps with its bishops and priests contacting top members of the regime, who have made promises, but have not lived up to them.

The bishops encourage the entire population to help one another, particularly in areas where the fighting is most violent. Some priests have chosen to live alongside their faithful in refugee camps.

Our country is in great need of healing. It needs peace and justice. And for Myanmar to have a future of peace, I ask you, please pray for us. 

* Member of the Sisters of Repair