The Thai Mission is one of the recent Presentation missions opened in Asia Pacific region in 1999 in Northern Thailand. The term ‘Thai’ refers to the citizens and the country of Thailand. Presentation sisters minister to two tribal immigrant communities, Akha and Lahu, migrated from Myanmar (Burma), Kampuchea and Laos. They live within long mountain border areas where there is a gentle mountain slope with a good jungle covering and an adequate water source.
The Thai Mission is a joint mission consisting of sisters coming from Philippines, Pakistan and Indian units. In 1999 five sisters from the three units arrived in Thailand. Due to innumerable problems with regard to obtaining annually renewable non-immigrant visa three
sisters had to return to their country of origin. The next four years that followed were a time of uncertainty and anxiety due to the dwindling number in the community and the uncertainty of annually renewable visa.
Currently three sisters from the three units are working in collaboration with the PIME Italian Priests (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission) who founded the mission in 1972 in Chiangmai diocese. We are involved in ‘widening the horizon’ of the immigrant tribal people in remote areas by combining educational and religious instruction programmes. In our daily life we are faithful to prayer, community and ministry, the core values of Presentation congregation.
At present all three of us have missionary visas through the Bishop’s Conference of Thailand which have to be renewed every year. Before engaging in any ministry we learn Thai at least for one year (its is generally recommended that we learn for 2 years) in order to be effective in our ministry. Thai is a tonal language with five tones written with words not separated from each other but continue in an uninterrupted stream with no punctuation. Initially we have to undergo this difficulty as no communication is possible in Thailand without Thai language.
In Thailand Primary education is free so young adults and children can speak, read and write Thai. This saves us from having to learn the tribal language in addition to learning Thai.
At present we are engaged in ministry to the tribal children at the mission centre and outreach programme in the villages of Fang diocese.
Ministry at the Mission Centre includes:
- Pastoral care and counselling of the children and young adults living at the centre.
- School (children at the centre attend public school) related activities and children’s progress in the school
- Teaching hygiene and environment friendly attitudes
- Training young adults to teach catechism at the centre
- Youth camps during school vacation
The Outreach Programme includes:
- Religious instruction (catechism) to school going children in the villages
- Teaching hygiene and environment friendly attitudes to children and young adults
- Mother and child programme for nursing mothers with babies below two years
- Pastoral care to foreigners residing in and around Fang
In all our ministries we bear in mind the importance of giving instruction on prostitution and drug addiction as the overriding concern.