THE RAIN NEVER CAME
by Fr. Kurt Pala, SSC
Father Kurt is a Filipino Columban priest presently assigned in Fiji.
“Did the rains come for Thingyan?” I asked Shwebo. “No, it didn’t, and the flowers did not bloom,” he replied. Shwebo is a Buddhist monk I have known since arriving in Myanmar. It has been a year since I’ve been to the village of Kanni in Mandalay division and still, not a drop of rain has fallen as evidenced in the dry canals and dry land. There is an urgent sense of desperation for the rain to come soon because many have prepared the land for planting peanuts and sesame, two important crops of the village.
Father Kurt (R) with a Buddhist monk friend, A Shin Vilasa
I went to the ancient city of Bagan, with three new novices, Koyin Shine Htet Aung, Soe Naing Tun and Poe La Phyi, to visit old pagodas and temples. Suddenly, the skies began to turn dark and the wind blew. We decided to return to the monastery in anticipation of the rain, but it never came.
The following morning, Shwebo asked me to join them for a prayer service. It was a prayer service for an old lady who died at the age of 99 years old. There was a big crowd gathered to pray and to listen to the head monk, and I stayed for a little while to chat with an old man I befriended the first time I visited the village. Back at the monastery, the head monk’s mother arrived and brought mangoes with her. She came on a ‘le’ – a bull-drawn carriage she drove herself. Shwebo and I obliged to come with her to another village and sat at the back.
On the way, she pointed out places where there used to be a pond or a flowing stream. Now, all that’s left are dried beds, reminders of what it used to be. “When it rains, I will plant peanuts and sesame,” she declared, pointing to the big stretch of barren land. She also pointed out to where houses used to stand. Because the water was salty and unusable, they all moved to another village. “All the young people have gone to the cities leaving the palm trees unharvested,” she added. Herders also needed to travel farther to find graze and water for their animals. They even have to provide a small tank of water for birds to drink from.
After dinner, I went back to the room to sleep. The wind was starting to blow which made it easier to sleep. But still, the rain didn’t come.
Myanmar is listed in the ten countries most vulnerable to consequences of climate change. Presently, extreme weather changes are being experienced in the country. In May 2008, Typhoon Nargis wreaked havoc through the country leaving behind more than 100,000 deaths. Creation, as Shwebo asserted, provides us everything. It also influences our rituals and cultures. We are greatly dependent and interconnected with nature and God’s other creations. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost that connection today.
Father Kurt (middle) with friends in Kachin traditional dresses, Myitkyina, Myanmar