Ministry in Myanmar
The FCJ Community in Yangon
Population. Myanmar, formerly called Burma lies in South East Asia, has a population of approximately 56 million. It shares borders with India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. Myanmar is a Union of seven ethnic states and seven divisions (ethnically Burmese). Altogether, there are 135 national ethnic groups out of which the eight major ethnic groups include Bamar (Burman), Karen, Kachin, Chin, Shan, Mon, Rakhine and Kayah.
Poverty. Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in the world. 33% of the population lives below the poverty line and many children and young people cannot avail of a good education and adequate health care. Education is one of the primary means of breaking this cycle of poverty.
Language. Burmese is the mother tongue of the Bamar, the largest ethnic group. There are, however, many regional ethnic groups and languages throughout the country .
Religion. Buddhism is the majority (89% of the population) and yet there is a sense of freedom for other religions: Christianity (4%), Islam (4%), Hinduism (1%) and traditional animistic beliefs (1%), to practice their religions.
A contented elderly lady collects water; children everywhere love football; a young girl collects leaves to feed the goats.
Group of happy students in Yangon; school children wearing thanaka; creative and enthusiastic student!
Marion Dooley FCJ, an educator
Since arriving in Myanmar I have felt very much ‘at home’. What has contributed enormously to this is the Myanmar people themselves. They possess many appealing qualities, a great sense of dignity, simplicity, hospitality, an openness to life and learning, gentleness, a desire for relationships, as well as great warmth and friendliness.
Sr. Marion experiencing Myanmar hospitality, with a group of villagers, with students from a village in Central Myanmar.
My ministries take different shapes but they all revolve around education, formal or informal. I see myself as an educator rather than as a teacher, believing that I facilitate learning and awareness through inviting and encouraging the students to explore their own inner landscape rather than simply imparting knowledge.
For me, the vital bridge between knowledge and awareness is reflection, so reflective practices that facilitate personal transformation are central to all that I do here, whether with trainee teachers who will work in remote villages, youth leaders, personal development with young adults, spiritual development with women’s’ groups or personal spiritual accompaniment.
Training session for youth leaders; Trainee teachers in discussion with Sr. Marion.
There is a great hunger in young adults to learn more about who they are, and to understand the role of feelings, desires and experience in their lives. They are thirsty to learn new ways, to explore and understand their own lives and to come to a deeper understanding of themselves and life in general. I feel privileged to be in a position to accompany many of them on this sacred adventure and I feel humbled, touched and enriched by their honesty, openness, and sharing.
For the past two years, I have had the great joy of getting to know and work with wonderful people involved in informal education in the villages around Mount Popa in Mandalay Division, Central Myanmar. I am very impressed by the passion and commitment that I see to provide better living conditions, opportunities and education for the people and children of the locality. This is a very poor area economically and the people struggle in a very harsh, dry environment to provide for their families. Their strong resilience, community spirit, good humour, generosity and mutual support help them build a better life.
Sr. Marion on cow cart in Mount Popa; People come for miles on cow carts tocollect water from this lake;
Sr. Marion receives some seeds from a young boy.
Agnes Samosir, fcJ shares companionship…
…with women. Regularly we have a meeting every two months. We share information, our concern and our insight with one another as well as with other women.
...with young people. Being with young people here is always enjoyable. Their enthusiasm, openness, honesty and eagerness to learn often give me energy to give more…
…with Burmese teachers. Learning Burmese is priority… The more I know the language, the
easier I share my companionship…
the better we build just
… with students at Indonesian International School of Yangon (IISY).
Bahasa Indonesia is a compulsory subject in this School. Twice a week, I teach “Bahasa Indonesia” to Myanmarese students. Out of 300 students, there are only about 16 Indonesian students! Certainly, it is very challenging teaching and yet I enjoy being with these wonderful and enthusiastic students.
…with Buddhist Meditators. I have been learning Buddhist meditation since last May 2010 with a humble and simple teacher, Ko Ko Lay at Nyaung Yan Meditation Center at Kaba Aye. Every Sunday morning, I go to this center and practice the meditation for about one hour.
In silence we are together…
In silence we are connecting...
In silence we build peace…
In silence we build unity.
Sisca Setiati, fcJ shares friendship and FCJ spirituality…
As an FCJ who has been in Myanmar for more three years, Sisca enjoys meeting friends from a different ethnic background in Myanmar.
For her, it is always a privilege to be able to make friends with them. “My horizon is widened through the encounter”, she said.
Meeting the youth has also been a privilege for her as she is able to share life through taking part in their education: “Their openness, hospitality and eagerness to learn is inspiring.”
She deepens her knowledge about the Burmese language by attending the Burmese tutorial as well as by visiting local people, where she is able to deepen her appreciation of Myanmar culture.
She occasionally bakes cakes for the people to celebrate birthdays and other occasions.
As the FCJ with the main responsibility for vocation promotion, Sisca enthusiastically makes the FCJ Society known through sharing FCJ spirituality.
Through the help of generous benefactors from Europe and Australia, we have been able to help with the provision of school books and equipment. A young family in Australia has provided two water wells in a village that was experiencing great hardship because of lack of water. The family was celebrating the birth of their newborn son in 2010. What a wonderful way to celebrate new life by ensuring others have a greater and deeper quality of life by providing fresh water for them.
These wells are 700 feet deep because the area is so dry. This is a cashless village and it was beyond the means and resources of the villagers to provide this for themselves. The young son’s name and date of birth is clearly written on the walls of both wells. Hopefully it will create a relationship between this young child, his family and the village.