The Second Week of Advent: he was an innocent man
Image: baby sleeping in a shelter at an IDP camp in Kachin State, Myanmar
“Restore our fortunes, Lord, like the torrents in the desert. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” -Psalm 126: 4-5
Columban Fr. Neil Magill helps run a “Higher Education Center” in Myanmar (formerly, Burma) that trains young adults living in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps to be teachers and development workers. That’s where he met Patrick in 2017.
Patrick is from the war torn Kachin State. It is rich in natural resources like timber and precious gems, which the national military exploits. Few of the benefits go to the local communities. Patrick, his parents, and his four siblings were forced to flee to an IDP camp when their simple home was burned down and their small piece of land was confiscated by the military. The few pigs they were rearing to generate some income were killed and eaten by the military as they ravaged Patrick’s village.
Now living in the camp, Patrick’s mother leaves for work early in the morning and arrives home at dark. She only makes $75 a month for her work. Patrick’s dad suffered from poor health and was unable to work.
In August 2017, the family suffered another blow. One morning, Patrick’s dad went out to visit a friend and did not return to the camp later that day. When Patrick’s mom returned, she raised the alarm and everyone went looking for him, but with no luck. At sunrise the next morning, they found him dead among some bushes. The military had shot him. He was an innocent man.
You can read Fr. Neil’s full story here.
Learn: Fr. Neil’s story is one example about how countries and communities are increasingly in conflict with each other because of competition for access to natural resources and economic opportunities. These conflicts often cross boundaries of ethnic and religious divide – as is the case in Myanmar, where the Burmese majority controls the national military and the Kachin indigenous community live in the Kachin state – which can lead to even more intense violence and war.
Learn more about how the Myanmar government uses militarism to advance economic interests here.
Pray: Take a moment this week to pray for those dying in economic chaos, including Patrick’s father (second prayer on the hyperlinked webpage). Keep in mind the many innocent people whose lives are upended by the militarism of economic exploitation, including Luka Maru La Ja and Mary Maran Seng Ja.
Act: Myanmar produces more than 90% of the world’s rubies and jade, and these stones command high prices on the international market. We’ve already seen that these profits do not benefit the communities where these stones are sourced from, but the profits also help the Myanmar military fund their operations against ethnic minorities, like the Kachin and also the Rohingya.
Bulgari is an Italian jewelry and luxury goods brand that sources many of its gemstones from Myanmar. We invite you to sign this petition calling on Bulgari to stop buying Myanmar gemstones and thereby financing the military’s persecution of ethnic minorities.
This story was one of four in a series for Advent 2018, "Celebrating Advent with the Holy Innocents."
Links to the other Stories
- The First Week of Advent: there must be another way
- The Third Week of Advent: desecrated for war
- The Fourth Week of Advent: glimmers of light