Catholic leaders consider the Church’s mission in Asia

People from all walks of life in Myanmar have mourned the death of at least 80 people in an aerial bombardment of a music concert in Christian-majority Kachin State. The killing of people, including prominent Kachin musicians, occurred when three military fighter jets bombed the concert site in A Nang Pa village last Sunday.

Hundreds of people gathered for the concert which was part of celebrations marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the armed rebel group Kachin Independence Army. The tragedy in the northern state has prompted many people to “black out” their Facebook profile pictures to show solidarity with the victims and the Kachin ethnic group.

People take part in a candlelight protest during a demonstration against the military coup in Hpakant township, Kachin state, northern Myanmar. At least 80 people were killed at a concert in A Nang Pa, a village in Hpaknat township, when it was attacked by three fighter jets on October 23. (Photo: AFP/Kachin Waves)

On Tuesday, a group of Christians held a prayer service in the city of Majayang to pay respect to the victims. Groups of Buddhists lit candles during their protest rally against military rule. The deadly attack also sparked international condemnation.

Since last year’s military coup, Myanmar’s Christian-majority states – Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin – have seen fierce fighting between ethnic rebel forces and the army. Dozens of people died and tens of thousands were displaced as the army continued to attack both rebels and civilian targets.

Residents of Bangladesh’s southern coastal region are struggling to rebuild their lives after powerful Cyclone Sitrang hit the country, killing at least 35 people and leaving a trail of destruction. The cyclone, with winds blowing at around 90 kilometers per hour, made landfall Monday evening in Bangladesh and affected 13 districts along the Bay of Bengal coast.

Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged and roads and villages were flooded due to heavy rains and tidal waves. Authorities evacuated millions of people to shelters before the cyclone hit the coastal belt. Deaths are mainly due to the collapse of houses and trees and drowning.

A volunteer urges people to get to safety as Cylone Sitrang hits Bangladesh on October 24. (Photo: Caritas Bangladesh)

The storm uprooted many trees and utility poles, leaving large areas without electricity or mobile connections for long periods. Three regional offices of the Catholic charity Caritas in Khulna, Barishal and Chittagong dispatched staff and volunteers as soon as the cyclone was announced.

They helped people to safety and offered them dry food. High winds and floods have destroyed crops and washed away fish farms in large areas of southern Bangladesh. The government and charity groups said they were assessing the extent of the damage to seek international funds to help victims rebuild their lives.

A Hong Kong court convicted Catholic media mogul and pro-democracy supporter Jimmy Lai of two fraud charges on Tuesday. Democracy and rights campaigners slammed Lai’s sentencing as another blow to press freedom and democracy in the politically troubled former British colony.

Lai, 74, is the founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and the head of its parent company, Next Digital. He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges. He and two Next Digital executives are accused of breaching the company’s lease agreement.

Jimmy Lai (Photo courtesy of HKFP)

Jimmy Lai is a close associate of the outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong. He was arrested by the pro-Beijing regime after launching a crackdown to smash a powerful pro-democracy movement in 2019. He has remained in prison since December 2020 and faces a series of charges, including sedition, incitement, fraud and collusion with foreigners. forces under the draconian National Security Act of 2020.

Police raids, arrests of journalists and employees, and the freezing of bank accounts forced the closure of Apple Daily last year. On April 16, 2021, a court sentenced Lai to 14 months in prison along with eight activists for joining an unauthorized rally in June 2020 to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

An Indian Catholic priest, accused of sexually abusing an underage boy in the city of Pune in the western state of Maharashtra, turned himself in to police last Sunday. Father Vincent Pereira, 55, is accused of abusing the 15-year-old boy at his parents’ home in December last year.

The surrender came after nearly a month of efforts by the priest to evade arrest. He was arrested in September under India’s strict Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act.

A photo of Father Vincent Pereira as featured on his former school’s website. (UCA News files)

Meanwhile, police said they have opened an investigation against Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune for allegedly trying to cover up the crime.

Father Pereira was suspended from public prosecution after police arrested him in September 2018 for abusing another teenager at a diocesan school. He was released in March 2020 after spending 18 months in prison.

Pakistan’s Catholic leaders expressed joy when a global money laundering watchdog removed the country from a watch list, raising hopes for a recovery from the financial crisis in the sector development and humanitarian aid.

Charles K. Eckert