During his apostolic visit to Myanmar, Pope Francis used a crozier made by refugees of the Christian minority of Kachin State, according to the Fides news agency. They offered this gift to the pontiff to contribute to their region’s return to peace.
Christian refugees from Kachin offered the pope the wooden crozier to express “their wish to see peace restored” in their state. Since 2011, a civil war between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar armed forces has been ongoing in the region.
The Kachins behind this gift currently live in the Winemaw refugee camp, inhabited mainly by Christians. While at least 150,000 people are currently displaced, 8,000 of them are being supported by Caritas in the diocese of Myitkyina.
Most were unable to go to Rangoon (Yangon) to attend the Mass celebrated by the pope, due to their level of poverty. Nevertheless, according to Rangoon Auxiliary Bishop John Saw Han, 5,000 of them were expected to attend the celebration to meet the pontiff and to pray with with him for peace in the region.
The Kachin independence movement was born in 1958 in response to the state’s desire to impose Buddhism on the Christians of this minority. The Kachin region is located in the north of the country, on the border with China and India. It is home to four Catholic bishops, 70 priests, and about 70,000 faithful. According to the government, Buddhists account for 57.8 percent of the population of this region, and Christians, 36.4 percent.