Category Archives: Nation

FLOATING LABORATORY LAUNCHED TO MONITOR LOKTAK LAKE

FLOATING LABORATORY LAUNCHED TO MONITOR LOKTAK LAKE

With the view to protect the Loktak lake from further deterioration, a mobile research laboratory has been launched to study and evaluate the ecosystem of the lake. On the occasion of its launch, Manipur Forest and Environment Minister Mr. Thounaoujam Shyam Kumar expressed his concern over the increased pollution penetrating in the lake and the need for floating laboratory of Institute of Bio resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) to monitor its ecosystem.

 

With water quality machine installed, the boat is built to operate across the lake for twenty- four hours assessing the quality of water and thereby, has been made proficient to tap on the temperature scales, chemical composition apart from the rest. More than four months were spent by ISBD to shape the boat as remarked by IBSD Director Professsor Dinabandhu Sahoo.

Mr. Shyam Kumar observed that through this whole process of research, scientists have extracted alcohol from the grass present in lake and soon it would be sold, and also the possibility of making organic compost from phumdis has been recognised.In an effort to encourage tourism, it has been proposed to install mobile bio toilets at the Loktak lake.

As part of the task of saving the lake and the environment around it, the state and the central government would be working collectively, in addition to the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) and Institute of Bio- Resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD).

CONSERVATION BASED EDUCATION VEHICLE TO ADDRESS COMMUNITY WELLBEING

CONSERVATION BASED EDUCATION VEHICLE TO ADDRESS COMMUNITY  WELLBEING

In an effort to sensitise the local communities lodged around Manas National Park toward environmental conservation, High Commissioner of New Zealand to India Ms. Joanna Kempkers employed a van as an educational and knowledgeable tool to build a relationship of concern and proximity among the community members toward their environment.

An engaging conservation tool developed by Aaranyak was put in place with the view to spread awareness about the need to conserve and the measures to be adopted to practise environmental conservation. Part of Manas Tiger Conservation Programme (MTCP), this vehicular initiative was undertaken to attract the communities and interact with them about the positives about conservation-based education. With striking outer design of the bus, beautified by the local flora and fauna of the ecosystem of that place, this van helps in catching the attention of the community members and enables an opportunity of interaction with other members surrounding the landscape.

Conceived as a mobile educatory tool, the van is well installed and equipped with the needful resources both theoretical and practical. This comprises banners, display tools, extensive audio-visual media accessories like projector, generator and more. For demonstration purpose, a small laboratory like equipment is also placed in the van. To make it convenient and accessible at all times, folding tents exhibiting educational materials are also carried for on the spot awareness.

To further the engagement streak with the target audience, a conservation theatre has been conceptualised too, showcasing popular folktales disseminating conservation messages in a modernised manner. Experienced theatre artists have been chosen to perform conservation narratives through its theatrical tangent. To expand its conservation-based education amid the youth and the young nurturers in school across Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam, this van helps in organising educative shows in school.

Aaranyak in collaboration with the Forest Department BTC, Panthera, Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Awely have continuously worked and strived toward conservation and community centric amelioration in the landscape of Manas.

INVESTMENTS BY TWININGS TO HELP IN THE GROWTH OF TEA COMMUNITIES

INVESTMENTS BY TWININGS TO HELP IN THE GROWTH OF TEA COMMUNITIES

Determined to ameliorate the living conditions of the communities living around and in the tea gardens of Assam, Twinings has committed to renew its partnership with Unicef for an additional five years of funding toward the communities of tea gardens in Assam. During their eight long years of association, this partnership has empowered more than 34,000 women by heeding to their vital health needs.

With more than 63 tea gardens in Assam, the communities living there are most vulnerable due to the lack of appropriate healthcare facilities to women, adolescents and children. Thus, Unicef -Twinings association has embarked on a social protection mission in the quest to uplift and improve the lives of women and children living around Assam’s tea gardens which are responsible for more than 50 percent of tea production in India.

It is reckoned that with better health services and safe environment around, the likelihood of children – both boys and girls going to school would increase, impacting their future in a positive way. Executive director of Unicef UK Mr. Mike Penrose expressed, “Children growing up in Assam’s highly marginalised rural tea communities face huge problems. They are vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and abuse, often leave school early and suffer from poor health.”

The social upliftment being aimed through this collaboration involves active engagement with the tea producers and government at the local, state and central level.

With their support and collective efforts, Twinings – Unicef intends to promote kitchen gardens, educate the adolescents on better hygiene, sanitation and important life skills. Twinings CEO Mr. Bob Tavener expressed, “It includes advocacy with both state and national government, that should lead to long-term, tangible change for the communities living and working in the region and is an important part of driving positive change for the communities from which we source around the world.”

Continuing with its resolve to relieve the tea workers of Assam, the renewed partnership between the British owned Twinings and the Unicef is a testimony to this resolve and commitment driven towards improving the standard of living of the tea communities of Assam.

NINE CITIES FROM THE NORTH-EAST MAKE IT TO THE SMART CITIES LIST

NINE CITIES FROM THE NORTH-EAST MAKE IT TO THE SMART CITIES LIST

It’s a moment of pride and glory for the nine north-eastern states of India to be chosen for Smart Cities’ Project- an initiative of the Narendra Modi Government. On road to improve the lives of citizens, the smart city project focusses on the essentials of sustainability, inclusivity, decent infrastructural capacity and an enriched quality of life for all its citizens.

The nine North-Eastern states that have been made part of this project include- Pasighat and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Guwahati (Assam), Imphal (Manipur), Gangtok and Namchi (Sikkim), Aizawl (Mizoram), Kohima (Nagaland), and Agartala (Tripura).

Talking about the major projects being taken up, now as an integral part of the Smart Cities Mission, Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri stated, “The Brahmaputra Riverfront development project alone cost Rs. 826 crores and there are 24 out of 464 projects costing Rs. 3,706.05 crores that can be rendered as impactful.”

Aizawl’s entry to the Smart Cities list will enable its urban mobility to improve, leading to decongestion on roads by way of multi-level car parking and ICT-based public service delivery. Known for being the first state advocating ‘no honking policy’ in India this move hopes to support Aizawl’s urban planning scenario in an enhanced and sustainable manner.

Pasighat was the first state from Arunachal Pradesh to be included in the ‘Smart Cities’ list, followed by Itanagar. Expressing his happiness at the inclusion of Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Pema Khandu remarked, “By selecting Itanagar, the Centre’s intentions in developing Arunachal Pradesh has become very clear and positive.”

Under the Smart Cities Mission, the city of Namchi would be catered with an Integrated Water Supply and Distribution System, apart from attending to its tourism and traffic management development. For the capital city of Sikkim, Joint Chief Town Planner, Nodal Officer- Smart Cities Mission, Urban Development and Housing Department, Government of Sikkim Mr. Navin Rai commented, “Gangtok is also working on an effective solid waste collection and management. The focus is also on the development of existing pedestrian walkways retrofitting with universal access design features and appropriate streetlights.”

Nagaland’s capital Kohima suffered from connectivity and topographical conditions, restraining it from being called a smart city. However, Central Government’s allocation of Rs.1,800 crores in supporting it become one has been admitted quite enthusiastically by the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi. Being inducted in the Smart Cities list in 2015, Imphal has been doled out an assistance of Rs. 106 crores by the Central Government.

An international interest has been shown in developing the city of Guwahati. South Korea would be investing in the city to turn it into a smart city. Under the Smart City Mission, urban flooding and congested traffic system in the city of Guwahati is intended to be managed, with the central assistance of Rs. 2,293.35 crores.

The capital city of Tripura is devoted to impart enriched quality of life to its citizens by preparing for infrastructural capacities through the support of this mission. LED lighting, disaster management and solid management are being taken care of in the initial phase of the Smart City project.

In line with the Centre’s ‘Act East Policy’, these north-eastern states would benefit from development opportunities, with massive investment and employment prospects. Being included as one of the 100 cities selected for smart cities mission, funds of Rs. 14,124 crores for 464 projects have been stipulated for their development.

GOVERNMENT OF MYANMAR VOUCHES FOR THE RIGHTS OF RURAL WOMEN

GOVERNMENT OF MYANMAR VOUCHES FOR THE RIGHTS OF RURAL WOMEN

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, a conference was held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Nay Pyi Taw. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while addressing the gathering, talked about the rights of the rural women, the need to promote them in order to build a better future and life. She pointed out the discrimination between men who are expected to move out for work while the women stay behind. Thus, highlighting the precarious state of rural women.

The State Counsellor urged the Health and the Sports Ministry to concentrate on the condition of the rural population, particularly women. The improvement in the status of their health conditions would be a reflection of development in the rural sphere, and in consequence, leading them onto the path of equality with the urban populace. She added, “The ministry will have to start by improving the health of children and mothers in the villages.”

Thus, shrinking of urban and rural gap is essential and imperative in accomplishing sustainable development goals, with development of women being at the core of this mission. Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Mr.U Win Myat Aye further stated, “If we utilise the existing resources more effectively for rural women’s development, there will be more success.”

Focussing on the nutritional requirements of the children, Aung San Suu Kyi expressed, “It’s crucial to develop the right mindset in your sons and daughters from the time they are born. Women are invaluable. No matter how much a father says he loves his children, there are only a few who can spend as much time with a child as a mother can.”

One of the development projects designed to uplift rural women is being implemented by the Rural Development Department called Mya Sein Yang project. This public- based project intends to electrify the villages that lie outside the purview of the power grids. Apart from this, various other village development projects impacting the lives of women have also been initiated.

MYANMAR AND THAILAND TO FORGE STRONGER TRADE TIES

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak

Establishing newer and improved trade channels to facilitate enhanced cross- border trade between the countries of Myanmar and Thailand was recognised at the meeting held between the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak in Nay Pyi Taw.

Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak while underscoring the significance of economic relations between the two neighbouring countries, expressed his willingness to support Myanmar’s agricultural and industrial sectors. Financially revamping, upgrading and developing the immature areas of the Myanmar-Thailand Highway was asserted and stressed upon by him to further strengthen Thailand‘s cordiality with Myanmar.

The Myanmar -Thailand Road is expected to swell trade, commerce and employment prospects along with enhancing connectivity to other South-East Asian countries. He proposed setting up of a specific community for the purpose of supplementing the upgradation work of the Myanmar-Thailand Road.

The possibility to accentuate trade along the border areas as a result of new avenues being opened up along the border was also mentioned in order to enable new routes for the purpose of cross- border trade between both the countries.

This integrative economic endeavour aims to forge a sense of economic equality between Myanmar and Thailand wherein Myanmar is being reckoned as a probable supplier of goods and services to the international community. Thailand’s trust in expanding Myanmar’s economic base to the global arena reverberates the impression – ‘Myanmar is the farmland, Thailand is the kitchen’. Chair of Thai- Myanmar Business Council and Deputy secretary general of FTI Mr. Panitarn Pavarolavidya exclaims, “We want Myanmar to be the farmland, and also the kitchen, so we will help until Myanmar and Thailand are able to stand equally in the supply change.”

MYANMAR’S HEALTHCARE SEGMENTTO RECEIVE AID FROMINDIA’S EXIMBANK

MYANMAR’S HEALTHCARE SEGMENTTO RECEIVE AID FROMINDIA’S EXIMBANK.

India’s Exim Bank under its Market Outreach Programme has evinced interest to invest in the healthcare sector of Myanmar. Post its liberalisation, interest from the global sphere in Myanmar’s investment landscape has revitalised, making the country more engaged and interested in the buzzing economic prospects offered by the word outside.

To fiscally benefit and support Myanmar’s health segment, a delegation from India’s Exim bank reached Myanmar early February as part of the bank’s Market Outreach Programme. This programme was undertaken to help the people of Myanmar receive better medical facilities in their own country. India has been well equipped in treating health problems owing to its advanced medical expertise and knowledge. This arrangement aims to provide affordable and efficient medical attention to the ailing people of Myanmar and prevent the urgency to travel to countries abroad for an expensive medical treatment leading to outflow of foreign capital from the reserves of the country.

Along with it, the opportunity to finance Indian investment in Myanmar was reckoned tantamount to Government of India’s Act East Policy. The delegation, on studying various sectors in the region perceived healthcare domain as the most significant segment in need of private sector investments. The Market Outreach Programme was carried out by the Exim Bank at Hotel Sule Shangrila, in association with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The delegation to Myanmar was led by the Deputy Managing Director of Exim Bank of India Mr. Debashish Mallick. Members from Indian private sector hospitals, medical equipment and devices manufacturers, pathology labs, and hospital management companies were part of the delegation.

Eliminating Blood Honey and Support Tiger Conservation in The Sunderbans

Tiger Consrvation in the Sunderbans

The boat glides slowly into a channel between two islands. The silhouettes of the mangrove trees rear up like sentinels into the clear night sky, just hours before dawn. Sanatan Sardar, 35, barely notices the mysterious beauty of the Sundarbans forests, he is more concerned about guiding his boat with his group into the Sundarbans to collect wild honey.

Moulis like Sanatan are the traditional honey gatherers in the Sundarbans who venture into the forest during honeycollection season, which lasts for about three months in a year.

Sanatan is from the Sardarpara village on Satjelia island of Sundarbans and is the leader of his group, the most experienced and skilled. His group, mostly family members, venture out together with each trip lasting between 7-15 days. The Forest Department issues a license every season to leaders like Sanatan for collection of wild honey from the Sundarbans. Over 3000 honey collectors are issued permits each year to enter designated forest areas for honey collection. Honey collectors make nearly 6000 rupees every month during the season. However, such forays into the forest are fraught with danger. In the past 15 years, nearly 100 honey collectors have lost their lives to tiger attacks. Therefore, the moniker ‘blood honey’.

Sanatan and his group are well aware of this danger and exercise precautions. While in the forest, certain members of the group specially act as look outs for tigers and post collection, each group anchor their boat only in the middle of the creek between islands to prevent tiger attacks. However, in spite of such precautions, honey collectors are still at risk. These men are the sole earning members of their families, and an attack could put the future of an entire family at risk.

WWF-India has been working in the Sundarbans since 1973 with a focus on conserving its biodiversity, particularly tigers, as well as promoting alternate livelihood and clean energy solutions for local communities to reduce conflict with wildlife and pressures on natural habitat with the objective of achieving a harmonious co-existence in the region. This issue of wild honey collection and its impact on the lives of honey collectors is a priority concern for WWF-India as well as the policy and decision makers in Sundarbans.

Sustainable and safe honey production

Apiculture in forest fringes of Indian Sundarbans within the state of West Bengal with Apis mellifera is in large scale. Approximately 5,545,281 kg of honey valuing 419,676,874 was produced over a period of seven years (2005–2012) from the apiculture. WWF-India believes that the fatal casualties associated with the livelihood of honey collection can be avoided if traditional honey collectors are permitted to keep apiary boxes in designated forest areas to produce honey instead of going into the forest to extract wild honey. Human-wildlife interaction will thereby be reduced to zero and at the same time the community will be assured of a harvest. This option will also help in receiving community support for tiger conservation in the Indian Sundarbans. WWF-India in collaboration with Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate have designed pilot studies since 2014 to establish a safe and sustainable honey production in Sundarbans.

Honey BeeExcerpts from the pilot studies

The results of the pilot studies exceeded expectations!The daily yield of honey from each apiary box has been nearly double the quantity collected by groups such as those of Sanatan’s. The honey prepared in these boxes were tested for quality at the Kolkata lab of Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS)and Bose Institute, Kolkata and it matched the standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).The results of the study bode well for groups such as Sanatan’s who by setting up such apiary boxes can avoid going into the forests of Sundarbans. Collection of such blood-free honey, if adopted on a large scale, has the capacity to eliminate casualties due to tiger attacks.

Optimism and concerns

Sanatan Sardar is upbeat about the collaborative initiatives of WWF-India and Sundarban Biosphere Reserve Directorate initiatives in Sundarbans, as this option has emerged as a safe and secure livelihood option. In various stakeholder discussions, the honey collectors have shown interest to shift towards this secure and sustainable livelihood option. There are requests from other honey collectors in the region to be trained on apiculture and willingness to shift from the present practice.

WWF-India is engaging with the Forest Department to set up bottling units in around 46 forest fringe villages of Sundarbans which enable honey collectors to convert their product into saleable table honey to increase sales. Discussions are underway to develop institutional mechanism of honey collection, processing and marketing. Apart from this engagement, a practical manual is being prepared in association with scientific institutions for the honey collectors to maintain industry standards. It is also important to eliminate middle men from the chain and ensure that the local communities directly sell their products in the market.

More ground to cover

WWF-India believes that there is more ground to cover regarding long term sustainability and scalability of this initiative which would stand scientific scrutiny. WWF-India in collaboration with premiere scientific institutes are carrying out ecological studies to assess carrying capacity and pollination ecology to estimate honey yield. The carrying capacity of Sundarbans forests will help determine how many apiary boxes can be placed to ensure economic feasibility of this initiative at a large scale. Further, WWF-India aims to create market linkages for the honey collectors to ensure a premium price for this high quality honey and is already in discussion with marketing entities and certification agencies thereby helping to improve profit margins while reducing the risks associated with this livelihood.

Courtesy: Ratul Saha, Landscape Coordinator-Sundarbans Landscape, WWF-India Team

Exploring the Hidden Gems of Myanmar

The Hidden Gems of Myanmar

One visit to Myanmar is enough to dazzle travellers. The eclectic fusion of the traditional and the modern, the old and the new entices visitors to partake of and enjoy the way Myanmar thrives, despite the many challenges it faces. The discerning traveller would not miss observing the energy, hope and potential lurking in the air of Myanmar.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar has opened its doors to the world in the last couple of years and has become one of the go-to holiday destinations for people across the globe. Myanmar provides something to please everyone and ensures that nobody leaves its shores disappointed. The most popular tourist destinations include Yangon, Mandalay, Kalaw, Bagan to name a few. However, there are a number of places in Myanmar that have remained off the beaten track. This article uncovers such gems.

LOIKAW

Loikaw, the smallest state of Myanmar, has largely remained untouched by tourists and is one of the least visited places in Myanmar, which adds to the charm and lure of the place. Loikaw is the capital of the Kayah State. It is located in the Karen Hills area, near the State’s northern tip. Loikaw, along with Demoso, in the Kayah State, have been opened to independent tourists only since 2013.

For a place so remote and unaffected by tourism, the large ethnic diversity one finds in Loikaw is fascinating to observe- Palaung, Shan, Kayah, Kayan are some of the groups found here, each adding their bit in making the state of Loikaw an eclectic melting pot. A stroll through the villages of Loikaw will open up interesting vistas for the tourists in the form of stunning pagodas, temples, stupas, lakes and caves. Tourists are likely to come across ‘long neck women’ wearing golden rings coiled around their necks. A curious traveller will certainly be intrigued by this unusual sight. While it is difficult to trace a reason for this, it is believed that these rings protect the Palaung women from being killed by tigers and the long neck makes them look beautiful.

Loikaw offers a quiet and serene environment to tourists, ideal for indulging their spiritual side and to introspect. One of the most popular sights in Loikaw is the famous pagoda called, ‘Taung Kwe’, towering above the town, on the top of a lime stone hill on the Mingalar Thiri Mountain. The spectacular view of the town especially during sunset makes the journey to Loikaw worthwhile. A cluster of other pagodas such as Myaka Lup pagoda, Shwe Let War pagoda and Nagayon pagoda stand behind Taung Kwe pagoda. Other places that offer a visual treat to tourists include:

i. Seven Stages Lake- a series of seven interconnected lakes, known for the scenic beauty and tranquillity they offer to the tourists.

ii. Christ the King Cathedral- built in 1939, it is Kayah’s oldest surviving church and is a fusion of traditional European architecture and local Buddhist styles.

iii. Kayah State Cultural Museumbuilt in 1996, it is a treasure trove for all the art and cultural aficionados, interested in discovering the life of the Kayah inhabitants. The museum holds a rich collection of books, traditional dresses, household utensils, weapons, paintings and musical instruments.

The sleepy city of Loikaw provides a pleasant introduction to the Kayah way of life and is a base for venturing out into the neighbouring villages.

HPA-AN

The Hidden Gems of MyanmarSitting on the eastern bank of the Thanlwin river, the capital of Kayin (also known as Karen) State, Hpa-an is a place where time seems to stand still. The laidback atmosphere and breath-taking caves and mountains make Hpa-an a backpacker’s paradise. Thanks to the new highway linking Hpa-an to the Thai border at Mae Sot and Yangon, and improved border crossing facilities at Myawaddy, this remote place is witnessing a steady flow of visitors, especially from the neighbouring Thailand.

The population of Hpa-an, about 421,575 (2014 census), predominantly comprises people of the Karen ethnic group, which make up approximately seven percent of the total Burmese population. The place offers a unique opportunity to the curious traveller to know more about the local Karen culture, as majority of people have held on to their traditional ways and language.While Hpa-an is safe and peaceful for visitors, November is a good time to head there, for the visitor can experience the Karen Don festival and get a true insight into its culture.

Besides lazing around at the delightful riverside, soaking in the picturesque landscape, lush green fields, tourists have plenty to enthral them on their visit.

i. Mt. Zwegabin- Dominating the landscape of Hpa-an is Mt. Zwegabin, about 7 miles south of the town, and 2372 ft. in height. The hike to the summit is demanding, but duly compensated by the stunning 3600 views of the town on offer.

ii. Saddan Cave- Gigantic cavern filled with dozens of Buddha statues, pagodas, wall cravings and a lake, transports the traveller to a different world away from the hustle bustle.

iii. Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda- Perched atop a limestone pinnacle, this unique and surreal pagoda almost seems to defy gravity.

iv. Kaw Gun Cave- Located near Kawgun village, this is a natural limestone cave and is covered with several Buddha statues, many dating back to the seventh century.

While Hpa-an may not be the preferred place to visit on the trip to Myanmar, it certainly is worth a visit and offers spectacular vistas for the tourists.

DAWEI

The Hidden Gems of MyanmarBeing closed for tourism until early 2013, Dawei is largely undeveloped and unexplored. But, therein lies an opportunity for an adventurous traveller, looking for an authentic and novel experience. Dawei offers jaded travellers everything that a metropolitan city does not- peace, fresh air, pristine beaches, solitude, few people et al.

Dawei is the capital of the Tanintharyi Region and got its independence from the British rule in 1948. It has enormous potential for tourism, as it has something for everyoneuntouched coastline, jungle interior, sprinkling of islands, beautiful pagodas and white sand beaches. With imminent development threatening to disturb the idyllic and untouched environment of Dawei, a trip to Dawei makes for a great treat. Some of the places that could be explored besides lazing around in the town are:

i. Maungmagan Beach- The most popular beach with the locals, around 12 km west of Dawei, Maungmagan has seen a semblance of development; some tea shops, beer stations and restaurants.

ii. Nabule Beach- Tourists can head to Nabule Beach around 15 km north if they want to experience stunning white sands of the Nabule Beach, away from humanity.

iii. Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda- The main religious site in Dawei, the Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda is a sprawling complex of shrines and statues.

Dawei is one of those places where one could just relax and do nothing.

Rudyard Kipling described Burma (now Myanmar) as, “This is Burma. It will be quite unlike any land you know about.” It is calling out loud to travellers, time to answer the call.

Courtesy- Arun Arora is a writer, trekker and a traveler who shares his experiences on various digital portals.

Pope Francis Visits Myanmar

Pope Francis

Amid the atmosphere fuelled with distrust and intolerance, Pope Francis made his maiden visit to Myanmar in the first week of December. His visit was carefully observed and followed by the experts for it was imperative for him to maintain his moral authority of being the guardian of the poor and the powerless, and at the same time refrain from engaging in any act which could transpire unpleasant situation for Catholics in Myanmar or mar diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Naypyidaw which got established recently. Thus, his conscious non-admission of the term ‘Rohingya’ during his speech was an outcome of this arrangement.

The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics – Pope Francis, professed all to respect each other’s identity and ethnic diversity. He stated that his main purpose of visiting the country was, “to pray with the nation’s small but fervent catholic community, to confirm them in their faith, and to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to the good of the nation.” Stressing on the Christ’s message of reconciliation, forgiveness, peace and harmony, Pope Francis set the resolve behind his two-nation apostolic visit.

During his visit, he urged all to ‘commit to justice and respect for human rights’ with state authorities, religious leaders and civil society members playing the most crucial role of peacebuilding. His meeting with the state counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi got preceded by top military general Aung Hlaing’s interaction with him who mentioned that there is ‘no religious discrimination’ in Myanmar.

Catholics from across the country flocked in huge numbers to Yangon to be blessed by Pope’s healing presence who led an open -air Mass. He shared “Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building. Religion can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in years of conflict.”