Update: Myanmar Relief Efforts

Dear Friends,

After 45 days of hectic work, the church and its group of committed volunteers, take a pause from the long journey of re-building our people’s lives, to express our deep gratitude to all of you who stood by us and the people of Myanmar in their hour of darkness. Thousands are returning home, or where their home used to be. Children return to school, knowing some of their friends will not be here. Farmers are returning to a slowly healing land, wounded by the marauding sea on that fateful day. The Ayeyawady River is subdued into serenity after straddling killer waves and exhibiting dead bodies for a month. It has been a heavy month for the church. In Dedeya, Fr Benedict and his group valiantly buried dead bodies, exposed to sun and rain for a month. It is a challenging work, for days together, many villages were a valley of bones, and now they are rested with dignity in a place. Elsewhere the caregivers, our volunteers, faced threats to their own physical and psychological health, living amidst contaminated water and rotting bodies. Some have to be carried back to Yangon for medical attention.

All the parishes have been turned into disaster response teams. Food and Non Food Items are distributed through them. Many times the Buddhist monks are fellow sojourners in this act of mercy. Just a month ago, no family had wish or wherewith all to send their children. This month, with our support for uniforms, books and fee, hundreds of children are returning to the school. This return is healing and is the first signs of life to the battered communities. Hundreds of Temporary shelters are coming up. Seeds are distributed. The

Church is designing a healing process through Psycho-Spiritual training and trauma healing services. The nightmare is slowly replaced with hope. Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), all the religious and faithful, Karuna (national Caritas) and the Caritas international is reiterate their commitment. We thank all of you at this juncture. Our work has been very challenging, done under great restrictions on access. But you all made our work rewarding by standing by us with your great fellowship. Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI evinced fatherly concern from the day one. He mourned with the Myanmar Bishops when they met him for their ‘ad limina’ visit. His Delegate Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio rushed in by the first plane available and personally interacted with the survivors and the caregivers all through these days. The churches from various nations contributed their mite and prayers to our work.

It has been a month of pain and sorrow for our people. But the tide is turning, because people like you felt their pain from far and rushed with assistance. The Church could save lives because of you. On behalf of those thousands who survived we owe a deep debt of gratitude to all of you. Once again we realize that the Universal Church is a mother who reaches out where there is a tear, a human brokenness.

It is still a long journey. The full recovery will take at least two years. Cyclone Nargis was nature’s nuclear attack on our people. There are villages destroyed without any trace. The farm lands are polluted with the sea water. The human asset is diluted, social assets destroyed, natural assets mutilated with wanton destruction. The poor of Myanmar, already handicapped by some of the worst permanent disasters, are crawling back to normalcy.

So our journey continues. The urgent needs are for setting up homes, shelter and regenerating the livelihoods through supply of seeds to farmers, encouraging micro enterprises. This has been a month of challenge, but a blessed challenge because we felt the power of human oneness, the unstinted support of the Mother Church and great generosity of human sprit among Myanmar people through their selfless service to their suffering brothers and sisters.

Our heartfelt thanks to every one of you.

In Solidarity,

Archbishop Charles Bo SDB