Indian Catholic News

Myanmar prelate leads peace-building charge

Development comes on physical, mental and spiritual levels for Bishop Gam in conflict-torn Kachin State.

 
Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam takes a lunch break at a Karuna meeting in Mandalay on July 10. He says many people who are not affected by civil wars live in poverty. (ucanews.com photo)
Mandalay: 

Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam is committed to social development and devotes much of his time to it.

A two-month course in the Philippines in 2004 enabled the Myanmar prelate to learn the basic concept of development. Study and practical work improved his knowledge.

During a conversation with ucanews.com in Mandalay, 65-year-old Bishop Gam of Banmaw in Kachin State explained more about the meaning of development and peace.

Development does not only involve material projects such as high buildings or roads. "There are physical, mental and spiritual aspects. Development is another name for peace and it needs to be sustainable," says Bishop Gam, an ethnic Kachin.

When he became bishop of Banmaw Diocese — after it was carved out from Myitkyina Diocese in 2006 — he chose the motto "Development and Peace" from the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

"Without justice and peace, there can be no development," says Bishop Gam, who is also the chairman of Karuna (Caritas) Myanmar Social Solidarity, the church's social arm.

Kachin State is a conflict zone and civil war has plagued the mountainous northern state on and off since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Renewed fighting in 2011 between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Myanmar military forced more than 100,000 people into internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Kachin and Shan states.

Since then, it has been the role of the Catholic Church to provide not only spiritual support but also humanitarian assistance to people in the camps.

Bishop Gam realizes his Karuna organization has been busy with humanitarian assistance to the IDPs for more than seven years but they need to continue their mission of development, poverty eradication and animation for the poorest of the poor.

"It is not enough to care for people in the camps as many people who are not affected by civil wars live in poverty. We also need to focus on that," Bishop Gam says.



Bishop Gam was born on June 23, 1953, in Sadung in Panghkak parish. The eldest of nine children in a Catholic family, he studied at St. Joseph's Major Seminary in Yangon and was ordained a priest on March 29, 1981.

In 1991, he was assigned to birthplace Panghkak as parish priest. In 2004, he was appointed director of Karuna's Myitkyina branch and on Nov. 18, 2006, he was ordained Bishop of Banmaw following the diocese's creation on Aug. 28 that year.

The diocese now has 23 priests, 64 religious workers and 187 catechists serving nearly 30,000 Catholics in its population of 300,000, according to the church's Myanmar directory.

On July 1-8, Bishop Gam went to Sri Lanka to learn about the process of peace and how resettlement is progressing after the country's long civil war from 1983 to 2009.

"We gained valuable experience from the trip, especially for our country and how we need to take a step in implementing resettlement of IDPs," Bishop Gam says.

Besides development, the bishop focuses on the importance of evangelization in his diocese, which borders China.

Pope Francis stressed evangelization and how people should show love and mercy to people affected by war during the bishop's ad limina visit to Rome in May.

Bishop Gam says he emphasizes evangelization among the majority Buddhists after gaining experience in evangelization when he served in Panghkak, near the Chinese border, from 1991 to 2004.

Source: UCAN

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