​Archbishop Dr Philip Freier commissioning Australian and Karen women to visit Myanmar.

7 December 2013

The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, today commissioned fourteen women at St Thomas’ Werribee who late January will make an official visit to Myanmar to attend the centenary celebration of the church’s women’s ministry.

Led by Joy Freier and Denise Nichols, the team includes ten Karen women who were born in Burma/Myanmar, going back home for the first time. They all spent as much as 20 years in refugee camps in Thailand before being selected for resettlement in Australia.

During the commissioning service, which more than 100 attended, Mrs Joy Venville, Melbourne president of Mothers’ Union, said: ‘It will be a great privilege for me to travel with the Karen from here to see again your family and friends.’

Mr Ganemy Kunoo, elder of the Karen people, gave a potted history of how 50 years ago the then archbishop of Burma visited Australia, took back a tractor, chickens and agricultural equipment to start community programs in Toungoo and Pa’an, which became entire dioceses within the Anglican Church of Burma. Later Australian bishops Bruce Rosier and George Browning visited the refugee camps and confirmed and ordained people. Right from the beginning Australia went to Burma to assist in this. There is a long history of Australian connections.’

The women’s movement, called Mothers’ Union, is within Myanmar an empowering civil society group collaborating with other women in programs of land reclamation, family planning, and rescue of children and young people from trafficking.

The service at St Thomas’ was led in Karen language by the Rev. Hei Ler, formerly a refugee himself and now priest of the 400-strong Karen congregation in that parish.

Story and photo by Alan Nichols.