Pope Francis is making the historical visit to Myanmar on 27-30 November 2017. This is the very first time that a Pope visits the country which has less than 700,000 Catholics, about 1.2% of the total population.

Diocese of Hakha

Brief History in general

            The Blue Mountains in the Western side of Chindwin River were always on the mind of the French Priests of the “Paris Foreign Mission Society” (Missions Etrangeres De Paris). They were known for their missionary zeal and holiness. They attempted to enter the Chin Hills even in 1864. In that year Bishop Bigandet sent Fr. Lecomte (MEP), but his mission to reach the Chin Hills was not successful since his movement was restricted. The King’s soldiers escorted him and did not allow him to go beyond the catholic villages.

            Twenty years later in 1884, Fr. Laurent (MEP), who worked some years among the Kachins previously, came to Kalaymyo. There he met some Chins. He found that the Chins did not speak much Burmese but they were kind and simple. In 1888, Fr. Antonin Usse came up to Kindat near Mawlaik from Chaung Oo by English steamer. Relating his experience, he wrote to Bishop Simon of Mandalay: “Farther in the west are the Chins, a people of straight forward and brave warriors, who are defending their independence against the ambition of the English, I would be proud to be their apostle”. He came back to visit the Catholics in the English military camps. This time, on September 22, 1889, he reached Forth White near Thuklai. As he looked down from there, he saw the nearby villages abandoned by the villagers who hid themselves in the jungle due to the war with the British soldiers. In this letter to the Bishop dated October 15, 1889, he said “Once I climbed up to the top of the mountain and contemplated the villages far away. How I wished to go there with my crucifix and my breviary… it would be useless to go now. The country will open itself. Some day it would be necessary to send a caravan of missionaries in that part of the Vineyard. They might die even there, victims of their zeal”. He was the first Catholic priest to visit Northern Chin State.

            In 1890, the Vicar Apostolic of Mandalay, Msgr. Simon, sent one of his best priests, Fr. Laurent (MEP), and Fr. Vestraeten to Chin hills, 250 miles away. They went towards Northern Chin hills and settled at Balet, south of Mawlaik, on the western side of the Chindwin River. But after one year, they saw that they were still far from the real Chins.

            The next year, Fr. Laurent went with Fr. Jarre to enter Chin hills in the south from Pakokku, through Pauk and Thilin. They arrived to the large village of Shon-Shi, near the Myittha river. Although it was at the foot of the hills, they had met with real Chins, and they began to study the language.

            At the end of 1891, after the retreat, a third missionary, Fr. Accarion, joined them. With the complicity of Chin traders who had come down to the plains, they made the project of climbing to Hakha to settle there, in the centre of Chin Hills. Fr. Laurent remained at Gangaw, for health reasons. But as soon as Frs. Jarre and Accarion arrived to Hakha, the capital of Chin State, an English officer, who was a protestant and hostile to the Catholics, obliged them to leave the place and to go back down to the plains saying that Chins were not yet civilized and the life of the priests would be in danger. The Fathers had no choice but to go back to Gangaw. In 1898, the American Baptist missionaries came to Hakha. The same officer who refused to give permission to Catholic missionaries to work in the Chin hills welcomed them with open arms.

            The coming of the Baptist Mission was a blessing in disguise for the Catholic Mission. For more than forty years, they invented the written language of Hakha, Falam and Tiddim with Roman alphabets. They translated the New Testament. They abolished the sacrifices to the spirits which is too costly. The Chins opened their eyes to the world. They wanted to become Baptists, but their strict prohibition to drink “Zu” (Traditional Alcoholic Drink) is too demanding for the Chin people. “Zu” is for them a kind of nutrition and also the only consolation for them after a hard day’s work. Many people began to ask for a kind of Christianity that would allow its believers to drink “Zu”. At the same time many wanted to be free from worshipping evil spirits. By any standard, the first attempts of Catholic Missionaries to Chin Hills were not successful.

Evangelization of the Southern Chin State

            The second attempt was made in 1934, under Bishop A. Faliere 50 years later than the Protestants. Bishop A. Faliere, Fr. Audrain (MEP) and Fr. Alexis U Ba Din, a diocesan priest, with four catechists arrived at Kanpetlet, the then capital of Southern Chin State, on the 17th of December 1933. Looking for better prospects, the pioneers proceeded to Mindat, 32 miles northeast of Kanpetlet on the 31st of December 1933. The first Mass was offered on the 1st of January 1934. With the strenuous efforts of two pioneers, Fr. Audrain and Fr. Alexis, the good seed of the Word of God was sown in the Mindat area of Southern Chin State to grow in time into a big tree.

Evangelization of the Northern Chin State

            In 1938, Bishop Faliere came to meet Colonel Burne at Magwe to settle some problems connected with Mindat hospital. Colonel Burne was the highest authority in the Chin Special Division. When they met each other, the Colonel had just come back from his official visit to the Northern Chin hills. He recommended the Bishop to go and begin a Catholic Mission in the Northern Chin hills. The Bishop was very happy and he himself came to the north in the following year in 1939. While the Bishop and his companions were at the house of Mr. Kelly, the Assistant Superintendent of Tiddim and a Catholic, the Superintendent from Falam came to meet them. He told the Bishop that the coming of the Catholic Mission in the Chin hills was contrary to the agreement signed in 1898 with the Baptist missionaries. He wanted them to draw back as they did to Fr. Jarre and Fr. Accarion. The Bishop smilingly told him that he came there with the permission of the highest authority, Colonel Burne at Magwe. He continued his missionary journey without fear. The American Baptist missionaries did not keep silent. They wrote to the British Governor of Burma reminding him of the agreement made with them in 1898. According to them, the arrival of the Catholic Church in the Chin hills would break that agreement. The Governor kindly thanked them for their good works among the Chins but ended his letter by saying that he did not see any reason to forbid the arrival of the Catholics there. “As in the rest of Burma”, he added, “the simultaneous presence of Baptists and Catholics created an emulation quite beneficial to the population, so would the presence of Catholics alongside the Baptists on the hills be of benefit to all people”. With this the Catholics won a landslide victory.

            The real beginning of the Catholic Church in the Northern Chin hills started with the arrival at Tonzang of Fr. Mainier, Fr. Blivet, Fr. Aloysius U Ba Khin and four catechists: Maung Tun Yin, Fridolinus Mg Ba Maung, Saya Aung Min, and Mr. Frank Reuben (to Tongzang). Fr. Moses took up his residence at Tongzang, while Fr. Blivet settled at Lailui Village.

            The Chin State was under the Archdiocese of Mandalay until Hakha Diocese was established on 21st November, 1992. Bishop Nicholas Mang Thang, ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Mandalay on 15th January, 1989, was appointed on 21st November, 1992 and enthroned on 21st March 1993 as the first ever Bishop of Hakha Diocese. Considering a better and more effective mission administration of the diocese, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI raised Msgr. Felix Lian Khen Thang to the dignity of episcopacy and appointed him as Auxiliary Bishop of Hakha Diocese. His Episcopal Ordination was held on 6th May, 2006. Now he has been appointed Bishop of Kalay Diocese on 22nd May, 2010 and enthroned on 29th June, 2010 at Kalay. In 2013, when Bishop Nicholas Mang Thang was appointed as Arch Bishop of Mandalay, Msgr. Lucius Hre Kung was appointed  as a new bishop of Hakaha Diocese on 19 October, 2013 and  the enthronment was on 2 Feburary, 2014.

 

Location of new Hakha Diocese

 

            Geographically, the Hakha diocese is located on the North Western side of Myanmar (Burma), bordering India, between Latitudes 93.6 to 94.26 minutes and Longitudes 20.38 to 23.7 minutes. The area’s elevation ranges between 500 and 6120 feet above sea level.

 

Establishment

            Hakha Diocese until 1992 was part of Mandalay Archdiocese. Pope John Paul II established it as a new Diocese, suffragan to the Mandalay Archdiocese on 21st November, 1992 and the enthronement was celebrated on 21st March, 1993 at Hakha.

Townships

            Now the diocese comprises 8  townships, out of which 6 townships are in the Chin State and 2 townships are on the plain section.

Area

            Approximately the new Diocese of Hakha covers (10623.84) square miles.

Population

            718948 Inhabitants, almost all the region are situated on the mountainous and hilly ranges. The majority of the inhabitants are Chin-hill-tribal people.

Religion

            Christianity is the major religion of the Chins. Eighty-six percent of them belong to the Protestant denominations numbering about fifty sects, and there are some Buddhists, Animists and a few Muslims.

Vicariates

            Based on civil administration, Hakha Diocese is divided into eight Vicariates; Hakha vicariate, Mindat vicariate, Lukse vicariate, Matupi vicariate, Kiunglong vicariate, Falam vicariate, Chaungkhuah vicariate and Rezua vicariate.

            Under Hakha Vicariate, there are 8 residential parishes, namely: Hakha, Thantlang, Surkhua, Chuncung, Bungzung, and Sakta. Semi Parishes Cawbuk, Tiphui.

            Under Mindat Vicariate, there are 6 residential parishes: Mindat, Cühcheh, Kanpetlet, Ro, and M’Dap.

            Under Lukse Vicariate, there are 5 residential parishes: Lukse, Shing Bawk, Kitha, Kyaukthu, and Thilin.

            Under Matupi vicariate there are 4 residential parishes: Matupi, Rung,Kiuk and Ngaleng.

            Under Kiunglong vicariate, there are 3 vicariate: Kiunglawng, M’Kuiimnu and Duk.

            Under Falam Vicariate, there are 6 residential parishes: Falam, Lumbang, Rih, Valung, Zathlir and Lente.

            Under Rezua Vicariate, there are 6 residential parishes: Rezua, Hnaring, Lungcuaipi, Khuahrang, Calthawng and Leikang.

            Under Chaungkhuah Vicariate, there are 4 residential parishes: Chaungkhuah, Tanpho, Webula, and Kya Inn.

            Therefore, there are 41 parishes with 2 Semi-parishes in January 2014

GENERAL STATISTICS

  •             Area in square miles                                     : 10623.84
  •             Civil population                                             : 718948
  •             Catholic population                                       : 30605
  •             Other Christians                                            : 252963
  •             Non Christians                                               : 435380
  •             Non Catholics                                                : 688343
  •             Parishes                                                         : 41
  •             Semi-parishes                                              : 2

            Priests working in the diocese (excluded the Ordinary)

  1. Incardinated into the Diocese                                               : 62
  2. Priests working outside the Diocese within the country : 1
  3. Priests studying abroad                                                          : 6
  •             Religious Congregations                              : 4
  •             Men Religious  (Dio. Right)                          : 2
  •             Women Religious (Pontifical Right)            : 15
  •             LWST Sisters, Local Religious Association : 50
  •             Catechists (Both Full, Part time and paid workers): 256

            Missionary Association

  • Little Way Missionary Priests of Hakha Diocese   : 2
  •   Major Seminarians (Theology+Philosophate+Spiritual Year)   : 28
  •    Intermediate Seminarians                        : 48
  •    LWMT Priests                                               : 2
  •   LWMT Major Seminarians                         : 12
  •   LWMT Intermediate Minor Semiarians  : 41

Motto: “Thy Kingdom Come” (Mt.6:10)

Vision

            Relying on the help of the Holy Spirit, the Diocese of Hakha endeavors to carry on the mission of the Lord, entrusted to the Apostles, so that the “Kingdom of God” may come among us.

Mission

          Looking at the situations of the Diocese of Hakha from all aspects and in attempting to realize the vision of the Diocese, we wholeheartedly commit ourselves:

  • To do catechetical instructions at all levels;
  • To build up Small Christian Communities (SCCs);
  • To be engaged in dialogue whit other denominations, cultures and the poor;
  • To support the education of the poor without any discrimination of race and religions;
  • To build a developed and integrated community with a genuine love and peace.

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