As a bitter war rages in the northern part of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), a church built by the Diocese of Meath is serving as a refugee shelter “for fresh waves of people who are fleeing their homes for fear of their lives”.  This is according to Fr Pat Colgan, an Irish Columban missionary who toured the region in January.

St Patrick’s Church in the town of Momauk was blessed by Bishop Michael Smith when he accepted an invitation from Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam to visit Myanmar in 2009.

“It is clear that the ongoing conflict is uppermost in the minds of everyone here”, Fr Colgan said.  “We hear and see military planes heading off on bombing raids and there are fresh waves of refugees arriving at Catholic parishes. An exception is St Patrick’s in Momawk, where the refugees who had been sheltered, fed and educated in the church compound by a coalition of Catholic and local organisations, including Trocaire”.

Bishop Smith said that he is following the situation with concern. “I am grateful to the Columban missionaries and to Trocaire for the assistance they are providing in the face of this human tragedy in Myanmar” he said. The Bishop asked people in the Diocese of Meath to join him in praying for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Earlier this month, Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam was one of four local bishops who met with the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi. The bishops thanked Ms Suu Kyi for her efforts but pleaded with her to continue to work for peace and for the safety of the refugees.