Aug 30, 2014 / 06:53 am
Celebrating 500 years since the arrival of Catholicism in Myanmar, Catholic artists have pooled together to evangelize through a new musical endeavor.
Catholic Creative Artists Association – an indigenous group of Catholic professional artists inspired by Biblical experience – has composed, developed and released a music album entitled “Revelation” in honor of the anniversary.
Earlier this year, the association premiered its first mega multi-cultural musical entitled “Jesus of Nazareth” at the National Stadium for two days in front of a fully-packed audience.
The program incorporated artists from the seven major ethnic groups with their own music and dances.
“God seems to be inspiring the Church to recognize this great potential and use it for greater benefit of the Word of God,” Fr. Leo Mang, director of social communication for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, told CNA Aug 25.
The bishops’ conference has declared the current liturgical year “The 500th Great Jubilee Year.” Celebrations kicked off Nov. 24, 2013 and will come to close on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 23, 2014.
“It is true that the arrival of the first Catholics into Myanmar was in 1510, so in reality it is 504 years of the arrival of Catholics in Myanmar and we should have celebrated in the year 2010,” Fr. Mang said.
However, the political circumstances and religious liberty situation in the country at the time did not allow for this.
“Since the political situations in Myanmar are developing now and there are many upcoming religious freedoms in the country we feel that it is a privilege to celebrate the great Jubilee in 2014.”
Despite persecution, Catholic missionaries and the local Church in the country have worked to promote dignity and human rights in Myanmar, promoting peace, social reconciliation and interreligious dialogue.
Discussing the significance of the Catholic Creative Artists Association, Fr. Mang said, “For the first time the Church in Myanmar has performed in the National Stadium and brought to light the big potential culture and talents of Myanmar Church.”
The association’s members are top performing artists in Myanmar, with backgrounds in advertising, television and radio, he explained, adding that “their participation has added greater credibility to the performance of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ and now in ‘Revelation,’ which is a tremendous success.”
Fr. Mang explained that the Catholic Creative Artists Association is an initiative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, which in 2012 decided to incorporate a group of more than 40 Catholic professional artists, including musicians, singers, actors, technicians and composers.
The bishops’ conference was responding to the call for a new evangelization by seeking to reach the hearts of people through art, the priest said.
The vision of the bishops is “to build a community of faithful Catholic artists supporting a culture of excellence among artists, encouraging them to perfect their God-given talents and flourish as craftsmen,” added Fr. Mang, “so that their work might be a more pleasing offering to God and a more effective sign of his love for mankind.”
He explained that the artists are to be “custodians of beauty” and “heralds and witnesses of hope” to all humanity.
A priest serves as chaplain for the group, coordinating and planning monthly Masses and meetings. In the future, there is hope to expand among local tribes as “a means of uniting the Catholics from different ethnic groups and strengthening the identity and faith of the Burmese people.”
Doing so, Fr. Mang said, will help respond to “the modernization process in the country (which) is alienating people from their own culture.”
In producing “Jesus of Nazareth,” members of the Catholic Creative Artists Association took many Gospel trips, walking miles to other dioceses throughout the country.
The government of Myanmar has identified seven major tribes as representatives of 137 sub- tribes and dialects, and the Catholic Church is well rooted in these ethnic cultures. The Catholic population is estimated at some 500,000, which is less than 1 percent of the total 50.5 million population in the country.