Just a few days ago, one of the brothers of the community was in Myanmar. During his visit, some of the young people reflected on the first part of the Letter from Kenya, with its question: “What is the source from which we draw life?” From Yangon to Mawlamyine and Pathein, the responses to the question were a clear expression of the inner strength that gives life to the young of this courageous people. One young man replied, “In me there is a kind of inner strength, and I believe it is Christ”. A young woman, preparing to teach English in an isolated region said, “In me there is a hope” and you could feel how much in the simple fact of saying this she had surprised herself. A young Buddhist woman spoke of how her family was a source of trust and courage. To the question, “How can we clear away whatever it is that obstructs the source?”, someone suggested withdrawing for a moment, in order to let the surge of emotion pass and to set things back in their place. Another said with laughter, “I cry and I cry, but you can’t cry all the time, so I stop and tell myself, ‘Now I have to get moving again!’” During the entire visit, everyone entered in the most natural way into the meditative prayer and the songs from Taizé translated into the language of Myanmar.
Solidarity with Myanmar: 2008
Immediately after Myanmar, Burma, was devastated by the terrible cyclone, over several days we multiplied our attempts to express our solidarity with the Christians there, and to assure them of our prayer. Even if communication was almost impossible, contact was finally established with the priest in charge of youth ministry. We continue to keep in touch and to see how we can be of help.
At Pentecost, Brother Alois said the following prayer:
God of hope, pour out your compassion on all those who are going through this great trial in Burma. When we are disconcerted by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent, enable us - through our lives - to be witnesses to the Gospel and to render accessible the consolation of your Holy Spirit.
A visit in 2007
One of the brothers visited Myanmar this year in the middle of the Myanmar New Year celebrations. Youth leaders took advantage of the holidays to organise youth camps. It is almost the only occasion in the year on which young people can be gathered together because, even if they come from the same diocese, distances are big and for a young person travel is very expensive. Moreover they are seldom free for such a long period because, even if they are students, they also have to help out at home. In Mandalay a meeting took place at the major spiritual centre of Chanthagone, half an hour from the city. Several hundred young people from all parishes gathered together for 5 days, living in very simple conditions and in the extreme heat of summer in South East Asia.
This year the "Water Festival" (another way of describing the New Year), coincided with the Easter Week Octave, which made the following sentence from the "Letter from Kolkata" even more relevant: "Every human being is sacred for God. Christ opened his arms on the cross to gather together all humanity in God. If he sends us to the ends of the earth to communicate God’s love, this takes place above all through a dialogue of life."
The theme for these days was: "Growing in faith" with the conclusion "Don’t be afraid". Grow in faith in order to dare make commitments in all spheres of life, whether it be work, studies, social life or psychological and personal human development. Those organising the programme have a real desire to communicate the reality that for God each human being is sacred. Lay people who are involved in different sectors of society and the Church come to bear witness to their commitments.
Since they knew that there was a visit from Taizé the organisers invited a brother to lead a meditative prayer just like in Taizé. In 2006 it was in Hmawbi, this year it was the diocese of Mandalay which sent the invitation.
A small group of young people, including some who had spent 3 months in Taizé and others who had participated in the prayers during the National Congress in Myitkyina, came together in order to share out responsibilities; decoration, sound, readings, writing prayers of intercession. Others practised the songs with a young guitarist who, though very timid and new to this sort of prayer, understood within a few minutes how to accompany the songs discreetly. There were so many young people that it was inconceivable to pray in the church and it was so hot that it was better anyway to pray outdoors. How is it possible to enter into a meditative state when all around us a quite different atmosphere exists? Well, it takes very little. Just a few people who know how to lead others into silence and some candles which can transfigure even the poorest icons. And young people are then very taken. They enter into this mystery of the sacredness of a human being and discover that it is only through a living dialogue that God’s love is passed on.