June 20, 2019
The Rt Rev David Nyi Nyi Naing, Bishop of Mandalay Diocese in the Church of the Province of Myanmar, together with his wife Mary has been attending events in South Australia.
Bishop David’s diocese has been in a partnership program with the Diocese of Willochra over the last five years through ABM. During this second visit, he attended the Diocesan Bible and Mission Conference at the Cathedral Church of St Peter and Paul, Port Pirie, on 7-9 June where he was the guest speaker.
The main purpose of his visit is to build the two dioceses’ relationship and friendship together in future ministry. In his words, “we came here to see our old friends.”
The SA Provincial Committee of ABM also hosted a ‘Supper Talk’ on 14 June at St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Prospect. Bishop David spoke about mission in Mandalay Diocese, and participated in a Q&A session.
Bishop David said that ABM is one of the most important partnerships for the Church of the Province of Myanmar, as well as for the Diocese of Mandalay, and share a long history of engagement and working together. He gives thanks to God that Myanmar is changing, compared with 20 years ago when it was difficult to travel internally and between countries, and there was little information that could be shared with ABM donors. He said after 50 years under the military government, there is still a great need to support development projects, and in the areas of healthcare and education.
In a brief visit to the ABM office in Sydney in early June, he told us that he would be sharing with others about ABM’s work in his diocese, especially in the project areas of water, education and agriculture. Bishop David said that the ABM water projects have been implemented in more than ten villages and townships in Mandalay Diocese.
“Some villages only have Christians, but most of the places we share with the community the water regardless of their religion, we share together all these projects. Pure water is one of the most important in our country. Most of the people are using water from the streams and other parts, that’s why through ABM, we do the well … we also bring the pipe systems to the village. All these water projects are not only used for the community, but also some places we use for agriculture.”
There is also a growing awareness about climate change in Myanmar. More than half of the diocese’s church members live in remote areas and rely on agriculture. Bishop David said that the church is encouraging people to use the farming system, rather than cutting down trees. Over the past ten years, many forests have been destroyed around the country so there is a need to educate people to care for the environment.
Now in his seventh year as diocesan bishop, Bishop David said that he is still learning about the role of bishops and the challenges facing the church. He sees spreading the Gospel and planning new churches as big responsibilities for diocesan bishops when faced with the challenge of belonging to a minority religious group in Myanmar.
However, one of the positive changes is that the government is realising the importance of interfaith dialogue in the reconciliation process and wants to work with Christians to facilitate that dialogue between the four main religious groups and their communities in Myanmar.
|Bishop David and his wife Mary in the ABM office. © Vivienne For/ABM, 2019.|
Bishop David’s wife Mary is the President of the Mothers’ Union (MU) in the Diocese of Mandalay which has 772 members.
“In the Anglican Church in Myanmar, most of the mothers and women are very proud to participate in the MU. That’s why in every diocese, we form the church MU group and the parish MU group and deanery and diocese,” Bishop David said.
Mary told us that she particularly enjoys working with the clergy wives’ group, to share experiences with them and to support them. She also enjoys travelling to different places around the diocese. The diocesan MU has a small project to help widows and support the tuition fees of primary school students who have financial difficulties.
As MU President, one of Mary’s duties is to encourage members to read the Bible; they hold a Bible quiz and award a prize every year.
She said that the MU program has slightly changed so that as well as focusing on the church work, there is more emphasis on the social development program. The MU has a parenting program and runs workshops in all the dioceses. Mary is heavily involved in the program and works with the MU coordinators.
Bishop David said, “We give thanks to God that we can work together in the diocese; she’s very encouraging to me and very supportive to our ministry.”
ABM will be leading a pilgrimage to Myanmar next year which will include a visit to Mandalay Diocese. The pilgrims will learn about the church in Myanmar and what it is to be part of a minority Christian group in a country steeped in Buddhism. Bishop David said they will see the beauty of the country and some of the local tribes, of which there are 135 in total.
The Diocese of Mandalay covers a large geographical area, so Bishop David was excited to share that he has plans to create a new missionary diocese in the near future. We look forward to hearing more about this news, possibly in 2020.