Anglican primate fears that too-rapid change threatens traditional Burmese lifestyle and values. Photo: Serinde
During a visit to the London offices of USPG-an Anglican mission agency formerly known as United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel-Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo, primate of the Anglican Province of Myanmar, said he welcomed change in his country-but also urged caution.
“We want change, but it’s happening too fast. Many people are coming into the country-business people in search of profits, tourists, and many others-and restrictions are opening up. This will change the lifestyle of the Burmese people.”
The archbishop continued: “Over the years our people have acquired a peaceful mind; we are used to a simple lifestyle and have learned to cope with limited opportunities. We have been able to stand up to pressure and poverty, but now I worry that we won’t be able to stand up to western values.
“The new lifestyle coming into the country is based on individualism, consumerism, modernism, liberalism and competition for jobs and resources. The poverty gap will become bigger.”
Archbishop Stephen was also concerned about the influx of charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He said: “There are many NGOs that want to work with us on health and education. They do similar work, but their agendas are different, which is difficult for us. The way they approach development is new to us and we don’t understand which approach is best. We are confused. We need help.
“This is why our relationship with USPG is so important. It dates back decades. USPG is our old friend and it fits completely with our goal and vision, which is holistic mission. USPG is both a resource and a source of energy for the Anglican Church in Myanmar.”
One particular concern of the archbishop’s is for young Christians, who increasingly find they cannot afford higher education.
“We need to build the capacity of our young people,” said Archbishop Stephen. “They need to know about development, climate change, and other international issues. One way forward is to promote informal education by encouraging the older generation to sit down with young people to share their wisdom and knowledge.” In the midst of this change, Archbishop Stephen said the church needed to hold onto Christian ethics and values, especially love, unity and community.
He said: “Myanmar is at the crossroad of big change. It is more important than ever that people remember us in prayer. Together we must be more active and more conscious, and there must be more learning and more co-operation.”