The bishops of Burma held communications and media workshops last week to help form the laity of the country to meet the rapidly changing realities in the southeast Asian country. “The Burmese bishops have acknowledged the pertinent need for a high-level competency in handling the issues and complexities of communication in a media-mediated world,” Fr. Leo Neng Mang, SDB, head of the Burmese bishops' communications office, told CNA Oct. 5. Burma, also known as Myanmar, was ruled by a military junta from 1962 to 2011; the junta's dissolution has begun to usher in democtractic and economic reforms which have reduced its isolation from the rest of the world. The bishops' workshops were held Sept. 29 — Oct. 4, and were meant to help the Church “reflect on the complex pastoral challenges and changing trends” that have come with Burma's modernization, Fr. Mang explained. The first workship was held Sept. 29 — Oct. 3 and was participated in more than 50 local communications heads from Burma's 16 dioceses, including priests, religious, and laity. Bishop Peter Hla of Pekhon gave the keynote address at the workshop, urging participants “to examine social communication and its role in the life of the individual, community, and Church” and encouraging diverse institutions — dioceses, houses of formation, parishes, and schools — to “focus on social communications.” While the Church is celebrating 500 years since her arrival in Burma, it has faced persecution for proclaiming the faith, and recent openness to capitalism and modernization is changing the nation's cultural trends. In the face of these changes, Bishop Hla said it is imperative to understand new media  and that participants “be effective formators of youth and parishioners in general,” as well. A second workshop was also held for the more than 150 seminarians of St. Joseph Major Seminary in Yangon from Oct. 2 — 4. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai and Dr. Sikares Sirakan from Thailand; Fr. Jerry Martinson, S.J., from Taiwan; Fr. Jude Botelho of India; Dr. Jose de Mesa of the Philippines; and and Augustine Loorthusamy from Malaysia shared their expertise and inputs during the workshop. The resource relators from southeast Asia underlined the global and Asian context of the importance of media for the new evangelization and for building up faith and community. Fr. Mang suggested that at the end of the training, the participants would be able to understand the pivotal role of communication in the mission of the Church, and the power of media and its influences on people’s lives. While the Church is small in Burma — only one percent of the total population in the majority-Buddhist nation — it has been influential in contributing to education, medical, and social development.