Christmas comes to Rangoon


Christmas comes to Rangoon


Georege Conger

For the first time in 50 years, Rangoon’s Christian communities were permitted to celebrate Christmas in public, sources in the Anglican Church in Myanmar tell Anglican Ink.

The military junta that ruled Myanmar since independence began a series of democratic and economic reforms in 2010 that led to the 2015 election of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi as prime minister had forbidden public Christian festivals and limited Christian worship to the interiors of churches. Burma’s population of 51.4 million is predominantly Buddhist, with approximately 3 million Christians.

On 23 Dec 2017 Christians in Rangoon held their first Christmas festival with worship services, outdoor processions, feasts and activities in public area -- with the permission and presence of government leaders. The proceedings began on the evening of the 23rd with worship at Holy Trinity Methodist Church and concluded with a mass at Santa Maria Catholic Cathedral on Christmas Day.

Naw Nilar San, a Baptist, told the Fides News Service that "in 50 years I have never experienced this kind of Christmas feast, many Christian singers sang Christmas hymns, and Christians offered food and drink to the people of Yangon, without any discrimination, bringing everyone a greeting and a wish for peace".

"This year is very significant in the history of Burma because Christians were allowed to celebrate Christmas publicly with the people of the city,” said Catholic priest Fr. Thet Tin. “This Christmas Festival in the city was intended to promote social cohesion, interreligious understanding and friendship among citizens".

Phyo Min Thein, Prime Minister of the Regional Government of Yangon, told church leaders that public celebrations of Christmas would be permitted in years to come.