First public Christmas festivities in Myanmar after 50 years
By C Coutinho
According to Fides News Agency, joint religious celebrations for Christmas began on December 23rd in the Methodist Church of the Holy Trinity in Yangon and concluded on Christmas Day with a solemn liturgy in the Catholic Cathedral of St Mary’s.
Pope Francis’ visit
Under the country’s military dictatorship, which ruled this south-east Asian nation for nearly half a century, the celebration of Christmas was strictly limited to private events held within the walls of local churches and homes. But this year, following Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar in November, and as a gesture of solidarity with Christians both in the country and around the world, the Burmese Prime Minister gave permission for festivities to be held in public.
In a special message, the Auxiliary for the Yangon Archdiocese, Bishop John Han, expressed the joy of the Christian community for this decision and encouraged all Christians to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the nation in every way possible. For the first time in 50 years, Christians were seen singing Christmas carols in the streets, offering food and drink to passersby, and sharing Christmas greetings of peace and goodwill.
Christians are a minority in Myanmar, accounting for just over 6% of the population which is almost entirely Buddhist. When Pope Francis visited the country he met with the country’s Buddhist leadership and told them that dialogues between religious leaders represents an essential way to advance peace and justice.