Archbishop of Yangon Charles Bo has circulated a letter describing the situation in Myanmar as the country continues to recover from cyclone Nargis. While returning refugees are happy to be home, he said, they are pained by the loss of life and the damage done to houses, schools, and places of worship. “We do hope our way of the Cross is over,” one returnee said.
The archbishop recounted the state of the Catholic rescue mission deep in Ei Ma in the Diocese of Pathein. He related that the parish priest Father Andrew Soe Win died during the cyclone there, and that refugees are returning in a “slow trickle.”
“Their church is gone and their pastor was buried,” the archbishop said, reporting the words of one returned refugee:
“Our altar around which we used to come as a village community is gone. And our Priest who used to tell us so many good things is gone. We were refugees, we begged for our bread in the last months. We do hope our way of the Cross is over. We are happy to be back where our homes used to be.”
Archbishop Bo said that spiritual rehabilitation remains a challenge, but Myanmar Catholics feel that they are “breaking bread with the broken people of Myanmar.”
“On the altar of suffering, with tears in their eyes, men and women sought fellowship in refugee camps and broken churches,” he continued.
The archbishop said using the “generous assistance” from the universal Church and the Caritas charity network, Myanmar Catholics have reached out to hundreds of refugees. “To all of you who responded with magnificent generosity, the people of Myanmar owe a debt of gratitude,” he wrote.
He said spiritual healing, the rebuilding of houses and the recovery of livelihoods are now major challenges, but the NGOs that helped Myanmar are decreasing efforts as media attention lessens.
Despite these developments, Archbishop Bo said, ordinary life is reasserting itself.
“Farmers have returned to the fields, mothers are busy sending their children back to school, and in the fields the seeds are once again sprouting, fighting the dark days of cyclone Nargis,” he said. “The human spirit fights back in every field.”