Pek Muan Cuang to share challenges of living in country ravaged by natural disasters, income inequality
by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – With a population of more than 60 million people, Myanmar (Burma) is a country rich in natural and mineral resources, but its citizens are some of the poorest in the world. The Rev. Pek Muan Cuang, an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM), will speak to U.S. congregations and organizations this fall as part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s 2017 International Peacemakers series. He will speak to the many challenges his southeast Asian nation faces, including human and economic rights, as well as the continued fallout from floods and landslides that devastated the country in 2015.
“By all accounts the 2015 flood disaster was the worst since Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed more than 138,000 people,” said Cuang. “The 2015 floods displaced close to 1.7 million people, totally destroyed more than 20,000 homes and damaged another 500,000. Damage to the rice crops, our country’s staple product, was also massive with more than 2 million acres of farmland destroyed.”
In response to the 2015 flooding, the PCM formed a disaster management committee to give material and financial support to victims and survivors. With aid from partner churches around the world the committee built two buildings to house people displaced from the flooding. However, formidable challenges remain in helping people rebuild their lives according to Cuang.
“Lack of available relocation sites, little support for rebuilding homes, accessing services and education are critical areas that are lacking in my region, the Chin State, where most of PCM members live. Safe homes, sustainable development, quality education, accessible health care, electricity and transportation are our most urgent challenges that need a response.”
PCM has also been involved in education and orphanage ministry for years in a country that urgently needs to address social justice and the freedom for its people to make choices for their own future wellbeing. The country’s State Counselor, equivalent in title to a Prime Minister, believes that 70 percent of the population is unemployed with little to no hope for their future.
“We are providing scholarship and stipends for students, funding safe drinking water initiatives for remote villages, and vaccinations for hepatitis C which has killed hundreds in our region,” said Cuang. “We’re also focused on women empowerment because women need empowerment in my church. The Presbyterian Women General Conference is very helpful in organizing seminars and training for women across the country.”
Cuang has been serving the PCM as pastor, lecturer, and principal of Tahan Theological College since 1994. In addition to his pastoral duties, he facilitates family life enrichment seminars and workshops, and is an author of two books on marriage and counseling. He’s currently seeking his Ph.D. at Vrije University in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
“My Ph.D. research field is Myanmar prison chaplaincy. My purpose is to make religious communities aware of the conditions in Myanmar prisons, get involved in prisoner care, and to challenge the unjust system. Myanmar prisons are some of the worst in the world.”
Cuang is one of 16 peacemakers who will be visiting churches and institutions across the U.S. between September 22 and October 16. According to Carl Horton, coordinator for the Peacemaker Program, Cuang has availability remaining in his schedule from October 4 – 16. Click here if you are interested in scheduling Rev. Cuang to your church or organization.
“It is a privilege to share and explore our diverse cultural backgrounds and challenges through the Peacemaking program,” said Cuang. “I believe that if we work and act together as God has called us we can make the world a better place for Americans as well as for the Burmese. And of course, the name of the Lord shall be praised.”
Since 1984, more than 300 International Peacemakers from more than 50 countries have been hosted by Presbyterian organizations. The International Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.
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