12/19/2007, 00.00
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An “ethnic” Christmas for Thai Catholics

by Weena Kowitwanij
In Mae Hongsorn province Catholics, almost all tribal, are getting ready to celebrate Christmas together. For this they are preparing a number of performances as a form of entertainment and a path to inculturation.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Christmas “is a spiritual, not a commercial event. We must prepare ourselves in the best possible way to welcome Christ in our hearts. For this reason, let us add to the traditional celebrations a special programme for ethnic minorities which are 90 per cent Catholic,” said Sister Supin Sirisawang, an ethnic Karen nun who talked AsiaNews about Christmas preparations in Thailand’s Mae Hongsorn province.

Masses during the Christmas season “are conducted in Thai and local languages. Most local Catholics are in fact ethnic Karen, Hmong, Akha or other groups. Each group has prepared its own cultural performance which will be presented in local school yards on Christmas Eve, both as a form of entertainment and as a path of inculturation.”

Sister Sirisawang’s own vocation was born when she met a missionary, Fr Peadae Bedo, who “brought Christ to the Karen. After meeting him my people converted to Catholicism and I decided to take the veil to follow his example, inspired by Christ.”

Now “in addition to catechism and preparing for Christmas, I am in charge of caring for the elderly and the widows in the villages of my area,” she added.

“Hua-la village was born in 1962,” said the parish priest for Hua-la district, Fr Komema Umpaipipat. “The first congregation to reach us was the Holy Heart of Betharram. Our first church was a hut made out of bamboo. Now, 45 years late, we can accommodate 4,000 tribal Catholics for next Christmas.”

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See also
Thai Church seeking greater ties among tribal groups in Thailand’s hill country
Fr Ribolini: Breaking the isolation of tribal Christian communities
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