Archives September 2021

Church and Labour

Church and Labour

By Neilan D’souza

Dear Readers, during this month of September as we are making preparations for the feast of Nativity of Mother Mary, Asian Lay Leaders Forum wishes you a very happy feast!

In this months’ issue of the E-Newsletter we dive in once again into the teachings of
Quadragesimo Anno and focus particularly on issues pertaining labour. The Church for a long time has encouraged and supported the idea that labourers and workers must must be taken care and compensated well by the Employers; but the Industrial Era resulted in less freedom at the individual and communal levels, because numerous free social entities got absorbed by larger ones, which we continue to see even today. And in order to strengthen the voice of the labourers the Church supported the idea of Labour Unions as it created space for labourers to demand fair wages from their employers and come to mutual agreements on numerous work related problems.

Pope Pius XI in his encyclical developed a mandate stating three elements which determine a fair wage for the labourers: 1)The worker’s family responsibilities, 2) The economic condition of the enterprise and 3) The economy as a whole. He emphasised that “The family has an innate right to development, but this is only possible within the framework of a functioning economy and sound enterprises.” Looking at the growing wage gap, class divide, oppression and violent uprisings  Pope Pius XI concluded that “Solidarity, not conflict, is a necessary condition given the mutual interdependence of the parties involved.”

Witnessing the drastic political developments and problematic ideological dilemmas of the time Pope Pius XI condemned Capitalism, Communism and Socialism; and firmly stats that “Dignity and human freedom are ethical considerations, which cannot be solved by a hostile class confrontation. Ethics are based on religion and this is the realm where the Church meets industrial society.”

On this note we invite you, Our Readers to reflect on how Ethical Implications can bring about drastic change in this world, although keeping in mind the multifacetedness of Culture, Religion, Gender, Value and Belief systems.


Integral Spirituality

Integral Spirituality

By Michael Amaladoss, S.J.

The phrase integral spirituality seems problematic. The term ‘integral’ evokes a holistic perspective. But the term ‘spiritual’ already restricts this holism by excluding matter and the body. It may also imply a system of thought or a dimension of reality. The Eastern religious traditions would refer to this area of experience or reflection as a WAY to an Absolute or Transcendent goal. Buddhism presents Nirvana as the goal to be pursued and it suggests the eightfold path as a way of pursuing it. Hinduism speaks of Self realization, the Self itself being the Real itself. Realization is achieved through four margas or ways: Jnana (wisdom), Bhakti (devotion), Karma (right action) and Yoga (psycho-physical discipline) that involves the whole person. The TAO is the dynamic way of reality itself, to which one has to conform.

So let me speak of the Way rather than of spirituality. I am also taking for granted that I have to speak here of the Christian way, though today, in Asia and in the world, it has to be in dialogue with other religious ways, precisely in order to become integral.

Our Goal

The way obviously supposes a goal. What is the goal of the Christian way? The New Testament presents it to us through many symbols. Let me evoke some of them. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, speaks of the mystery that God has revealed to us in Chirst “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:10) In his letter to the Colossians the focus is more on Christ, who is the image of the invisible of God and the firstborn of all creation, through whom and for whom all things have been created and who is the fullness of God. “Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” (Col 1:15-20)

His letter to the Corinthians, which is an earlier text, the focus is rather God – the Father. Christ brings all things together and offers them to God so that “God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28) In his letter to the Romans, it is the Spirit of freedom who makes all of us joint heirs with Christ so that we can call God ‘Abba’ and “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:15, 21) Here we have four versions of the same image of God gathering all things together. The whole cosmos is involved, the humans as well as creation.

John in the book of Revelation seems to reflect this image. He starts with the picture of a human community: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his people.” (Rev21:3) But then he opens up to become more inclusive: “See, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:5) In his gospel, he makes up in depth what he may lack in breadth. On the last day of his life, Jesus prays: “That they may all be one. As you, Father are in me and | am in you, may they also be in us.” (Jn 17:21) The Synoptics speak of the Kingdom of God, though its cosmic and holistic outreach is not as clear as in the texts above.

They seem to be much more sensitive to the ongoing struggle between the good and the bad, God and Mammon. But a universal vision is not absent. Before going up to heaven Jesus tells his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Mt 28:18-19) If I were an exegete I would take these passages one by one and analyzed them in detail and highlight the vision that they propose to us. But even a simple reading of these texts shows us that God’s plan is to gather all things together. This is, obviously, also our goal — the goal of everyone and everything. Our way must lead us towards this goal.

Harmony with the Other Humans

A spirit of individualism, egged on by ignorance, desire and egoism, is bound to clash with others. It will become competitive and acquisitive, seeing the others as enemies, seeking to deprive them of what is their due (injustice) and to dominate and instrumentalize them (inequality). One forgets one’s duties and denies the rights of others. Such an attitude will, obviously, lead to conflict. Egoism can often also be collective in the name of a religious, caste, ethnic or national identity. In such a situation harmony can be established only when one thinks, not only of rights, but also of duties and responsibilities; not only of the rights of individuals but also of cultural, social and religious communities. The context of such attitudes will be solidarity and subsidiarity. I do not think that I need to explain these concepts here. Injustice can become structural enduring through history and leading to hidden or open conflict. At that stage an option for the poor and the oppressed may be necessary. This very option for the poor may lead us, not only to challenge the rich to conversion, but also reach out to the non-poor change-makers like the intellectuals, leaders of social movements, activists and even the enlightened rich.

Christianity has not spoken much about harmony with creation and with the body. It does insist on harmony with the self. In recent times it has also insisted on harmony with others. Jesus himself has focused a lot on these two dimensions. While the Sermon on the Mount is a good example of attitudes that everyone needs (Mt 5-7) — I would highlight poverty of spirit and the love of enemies — John’s description of the last day in Jesus’ life evokes a social dimension. (Jn 13-17)

Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12) He exemplifies this love for others in humble service of the others, washing their feet, in sharing food with them and in total self gift, offering his own life for them. (cf.Jn 15:13) Starting with these indications of Jesus we can work out a way of relating to the others according to his way. Structural ways of doing this may change according to context and history. But the directions are clear.

Church’s Concern for Migrant Workers

Church’s Concern for Migrant Workers

By Sinapan Samydorai

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.” Leviticus 19:33-34 [Old Testament]. The New Testament, tell us that [Matthew 8:20] Jesus was born in a manger, Mary and Joseph took refugee in Egypt to escape prosecution from Herod, and later became a preacher. Parable of the Good Samaritan [John 4:1-30] teaches how to show concern towards a stranger in need. The Catholic Church’s concern for migrants is revealed in Catholic social teachings, in encyclical letters, and in ecumenical council documents.

The issue of migration is link to social development. There is urgent need to advocate for the rights of migrants and their families to ensure a dignified and decent working and living condition. The Encyclical Gaudium.et Spes, no.66 express that there should be no discrimination in wages and working conditions of migrant workers. They contribute to economic development. Migrant workers should not be treated as mere tools of production but as persons with families. The Church respects the person’s dignity, rights, and responsibility to participate in civil society. Pope John Paul II has dealt with the working condition of migrant workers in his encyclical on human work or “Laborem Exercens”. The Pope recognize that people have a right to immigrant. The pope also highlighted the need for legislation to secure the emigrants’ rights, to bring benefit to the emigrant’s personal, family and social life. The Pope express that “emigration in search of work must in no way become an opportunity for financial or social exploitation.” Thus, the Pope advocates for workers rights and decent working conditions.

The core principle expressed in the encyclical Laborem Exercens:

“values and the profound meaning of work itself require that capital should be at the service of labour and not labour at the service of capital.”

“The closing of borders is often caused not merely by a reduced or no longer existing need for immigrant work-force, but by a production system based on the logic of labor exploitation. Until recently, the wealth of the industrialized countries was locally produced, with the contribution of numerous immigrants. With the displacement of capital and business activities, a major part of that wealth is now produced in developing countries, where cheap labor is available. In this way, the industrialized societies have discovered how to benefit from a cheap labor supply without having to bear the burden of immigrants. Thus, these workers run the risk of being reduced to new “serfs” bound to movable capital which, among the many situations of poverty, chooses from one time to the next those circumstances where manpower is cheapest. It is clear that such a system is unacceptable; in fact, it practically ignores the human dimension of work.” Pope John Paul said at the Fourth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (Vatican City, 5-10 October 1998)

Pastoral Care of Migrants

In 1992, the First Consultation for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees in Asia was held in Manila, Philippines organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, jointly with the FABC Office of Human Development and the Episcopal Commission for Migration and Tourism of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

In 1996, the Second Consultation for the pastoral care of migrants in Asia, noted the following development in Church action based on the first consultation’s recommendations:

  1. Anti-illegal recruitment campaign initiated in the Philippines;
  2. The start of “the formation of active and creative migrant communities through occasional missions,” lay leadership development and renewal of groups;
  3. The issuance of three or more collective pastoral statements of Bishops’ Conferences regarding state policy shifts on the refugee problem;
  4. The introduction of mini-courses on migration in some seminaries; 5.The organization of the Ecumenical Watch Committee to pursue the campaign for the ratification of the UN International Convention on Migrants and Their Families; and 6.The undertaking of steps towards the orderly exchange of clergy and pastoral workers between sending and receiving countries.

The Second Consultation observed changes in trends: Asian migrant workers’ were moving to East Asia; undocumented workers increasing; human trafficking worsen; more women migrate for jobs. From 1996 to 2000, the Second Consultation prioritised five areas of pastoral commitments: labor migration, migrant women, refugees and internally displaced persons, the family, and human rights.

Challenges For Migrant Workers’ Advocacy

The Church needs to address the issues faced by the migrant workers, through the social and pastoral plans, to be relevant and responsive to the needs of the migrant workers. Migration is a human right.

We need to better understand the causes of migration to overcome the root cause and not only with the consequences of migration. While Churches of origin work to ensure justice in sending countries, they must join the receiving Churches in moving sociopolitical and economic structures that marginalize the majority who are poor in Asia.

Social advocacy is understood as an ongoing process of influencing decision makers with a commitment in the pursuit of truth and thus bring changes to social policy or to enforce laws or to repeal them if they violate norms of human rights. It is also a process of offering alternatives by enacting new laws and influencing behaviour and changes in lifestyle. The process of social advocacy thus begins with identifying the needs and rights of the disadvantaged in society, involving a comprehensive, in-depth social analysis and reflection, including faith analysis. It calls for justice and solidarity with the suffering, and working towards the creation of equitable power structures. The dimensions of social advocacy includes awareness education and communication about issues and strategies for appropriate actions, such as, creating networks and alliances, techniques for monitoring and lobbying of decisions-makers, to organise public campaigns and actions. The creation of alternatives is indeed the greatest challenge for promoters of social advocacy.

Social Justice in Quadragesimo Anno II

Social Justice in Quadragesimo Anno II

By Dr. Paul Hwang –  Director of ALL Forum

Quardragesimo Anno on Labor Issues

I pointed out in the previous writing in the August newsletter, Pope Pius XI looked with concern at the working condition in which workers were treated as simple production tools in society at the time, youth and female workers were exposed to ethical risks, and even domestic life was threatened. After the Great Depression in 1929, the US and global economy had to confront the result in the mass production of unemployed people. The world’s working environment was getting worse due to the rise of unemployed people. The pope deplored the poor conditions of the workers.

Basically, Pius XI inherited the teachings of Leo XIII, and regarded it as an intrinsic right for workers to form a union, and the principle that they should form a union according to their occupation and work based on religion for the good of the union members. Also, although workers can form unions, the union was viewed as a voluntary organization because it was up to them to decide whether or not to join the union. This is different from the “union shop system”, which was popular at the time, when hired, had to join a labor union and if it lost its status as a union member, workers would be fired. Stimulated by the teachings of the church, Western countries legally approved trade unions or labor groups, and by granting them exclusive privileges in activities for workers, unions can

represent workers and sign labor contracts and trade agreements. Pius XI said regarding the union’s activities, “The new system of trade unions and labor organizations is overly bureaucratic and political. Rather than contributing to the reconstruction and improvement of the social order, there is a risk of being used for special political purposes 75) In fact, communists have turned workers into a tool for realizing their ideology by pushing them into class struggle.

Pius XI believed that the wages of workers should be determined in consideration of the livelihood of workers and their families, the circumstances of businesses and the request of common good.

 He identified it as a social justice obligation that wages must ensure livelihood. “We can never say that social justice has been met unless workers are paid enough to make a safe living for themselves and their families.”56) In order for social justice to be satisfied, wages must be sufficient to maintain a family’s livelihood and sufficient measures should be taken in cases of old age, disease, unemployment, etc.

Quardragesimo Anno and Pope John XXIII

After one generation later, Pope John XXIII summed up his teaching in the encyclical Mater et Magistra . He wrote the encyclical in 1961 in a way that continued Quadragesimo Anno (1931). The world had changed considerably in the previous 30 years both politically and economically. The Great Depression and World War II had ended, the cold war had begun, and technology allowed for increased productivity, but vast poverty remained across the globe.

Above all, John XXIII pointed out in the encyclical especially the paragraphs 38 to 42 that the supreme criterion in economic matters must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice. Also he said people’s aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order, with its network of public and private institutions, in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interests of the common good.

My Reflection on Laudato Si : Care for our common home

My Reflection on Laudato Si : Care for our common home

By Merry Adriana

Here I was, on my second session of the online course. Although I had to struggle with my internet connection, which always sent me out of the webinar many times. Beside that, I couldn’t open my video so I only followed the course by listening. But it’s all right, I tried my best to follow and to listen the course carefully. I think it’s good also for my eyes. By closing my eyes I listened and plunged  myself in the  encyclical letter Laudato Si, care for our common home.

The Holy Father in this encyclical reminds us to consider our Mother Earth, so that she may continue to sustain us.  When God created man and other creatures (Genesis 1:26-30) He saw that all were good and beautiful.  He gave man the responsibility to take good care of what is around us, so we may live peacefully on this beautiful earth,  as we are all connected with each other and with the whole nature,  But, instead of protecting her we have come to see ourselves as lords and masters, who entitled to plunder her without control or limit. It seems we have forgotten that there are future generations, who will also need Mother Earth’s care. Nature is like a magnificent book, in which God speaks to us and grant us a glimpse of His infinite beauty and goodness. So, we have to pay attention  the message of the Holy Father and take good care of our common home, so that generations yet to come can experience that beauty which God was so proud of when He created this world and entrusted it to the care of man.

St. Francis of Assisi was very much aware of this. He wrote the Canticle of Creatures, so that every generation singing it, could be reminded of God’s beauty in every creature, big or small.  St. Francis also told us that if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, then our attitude will be like consumers and exploiters who are unable to set limits to our immediate needs. We become very greedy.  Actually we should  realize that when we hurt the Earth, we also hurt the poor, we cannot attend to the poor people without dealing with some of the root causes of poverty like the destruction of the environment.  Surely we can’t just stand and watch ourselves and other living things die if there is something we can do. We just all have to try to change our ways to help the environment and ourselves. Many people are now working out ways that are likely to help our environment. What differences are you and I making?

We should not think that our efforts – even our small gestures – don’t matter. We only need few courageous persons to take the initiative and the rest would see the sense and pick it up. We all need to have faith and strong belief that it is possible to bring about changes and arrest environmental destruction. Let us all be lovers of nature like St. Francis and let us give heed to the message of Pope Francis in his encyclical letter “ Laudato Si”  on care of our common home. Start small from the corner you are in and the change will be infectious.

Dive into the Social Dimension of Evangelization with Evangelii Gaudium

Dive into the Social Dimension of Evangelization with Evangelii Gaudium

By Willem L. Turpijn

As a Catholic youth minister, who is also involved in YOUCAT Indonesia; the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is one of the most amazing Church documents for me. Being involved in YOUCAT Indonesia, which is a youth catechist movement for the entire Church with the spirit of New Evangelization, it compelled me to read this document. And as a companion for young people, I find that Evangelii Gaudium is an interesting, beautiful, and energetic document of the Church, with clear language, easy to digest, yet pumping motivation to animate the spirit of ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ in daily life, as well as in ministry work, in the midst of society and also amidst young people.

It is still very clear in my memory how I got acquainted with this document. Apart from getting it through the translation of the Documentation and Information Department of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, I also remember very well how I got acquainted with this document at the first YOUCAT International Congress forum in Tagaytay City, Philippines. One of the most highlighted aspect from this document is Pope Francis’ hope that young people can become the “street preachers”, or as in Spanish it is called, Callejeros de la Fe. Not only highlighted in the seminar sessions, but all participants were then sent to the streets in groups to practice how to become the street preachers. Some of us were experienced to draw murals, some were offering prayer through SMS services, some of us were playing a skit about Jesus in the middle of a crowded market, and many other activities. So, obviously this document is very impressive to me.

Evangelii Gaudium is often used by youth ministers like me, while conducting sessions in several cities of Indonesia upon the invitation of the local Diocesan Youth Commission or certain communities.

One of the most important point that I always bring up and emphasise during my session is the title of the document Evangelii Gaudium. I especially the emphasise on the phrase “Joy of the Gospel”, which has an internal nuance, rather than “The Happiness of the Gospel”, which is more external. That is, before proclaiming the Gospel, we must first be filled with the Joy of the Gospel, and that can only happen through our personal relationship with Christ, the Living Gospel.

However, a zoom session with Dr. Paul Hwang, Director of the Asian Lay Leaders Forum really moved me. There is a basic thing that apparently has escaped my attention all this time. Evangelii Gaudium apparently has a deep social nuance. Yes, with Dr. Paul Hwang, my eyes have been progressively opened to the social dimension of evangelism.

Steadily Dr. Paul Hwang helped the participants understand the relationship between one of the most famous documents of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes with the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and then slowly began to introduce the dimensions of the Church’s Social Teaching which were also contained in Evangelii Gaudium, including how Evangelii Gaudium puts emphasis on attention for the poor. It’s like finding a sparkling gem that I’ve never been aware of.

When I was done marveling at how meticulously Dr. Paul Hwang pointed out the content of the Social Teachings of the Church in Evangelii Gaudium, he then presented something extraordinary which had completely missed from my reading of Evangelii Gaudium. This is the concept of Integral Human Development. As far as I know, this phrase, Integral Human Development, began to emerge during the pontificate of Pope Francis. A dicastery was even formed from the reforms of the fusion of several Pontifical Councils (Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, etc.), and later adopted the name Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. That’s all I know.

But with Dr. Paul Hwang this concept was completely dissected. He introduced the person behind the concept of Integral Human Development, who also turned out to be behind Gaudium et Spes, and how this concept has been found in several documents of the Popes, starting with Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and finally, Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium. Dr. Paul Hwang’s exposure is indeed very pithy and evocative, which is also closed with four important principles about peace, and how dialogue, especially interreligious dialogue, is a prerequisite for world peace.

I am truly grateful to have gained such valuable insight through this session. I am truly amazed by Evangelii Gaudium and also by Pope Francis who promulgated it. I think this concept of Integral Human Development is truly a breakthrough that the universal Church should strive for as it contributes to form a better world in the future, starting from now. And we, as part of the Church, should not wait for the situation to become an emergency first in order to start, or wait for the initiation of the clergy to start this movement. As part of God’s people who want to present the Kingdom of God in this world, through our daily work and service; of course, we can and must develop, the concept of Integral Human Development By getting involved in society, having dialogue with others, siding with the marginalized and the poor, or through other simple ways. We need to bring about a transformation in this world to realize the presence of Integral Human Development with what we have and with what and who is in around us.

As Pope Francis hopes, let’s move outside, move to the periphery, be brave and be ready to be hurt and get dirty, to meet and be present for them as part of the missionary disciples. Let’s develop the concept of Integral Human Development from now on and forever!

Lay Mission Institute is offering a Diploma in Applied Theology Program

Lay Mission Institute is offering a Diploma in Applied Theology Program

Lay Mission Institute (LAMIN) a center for advanced theological and pastoral training program for lay Catholics, based in Yangon will be offering a Diploma in Applied Theology Program for the Academic Year 2021-2022. The Diploma will be instructed in Myanmar language, Schedule has been displayed above. Kindly contact them for more details regarding the course.

The main goal of LAMIN is to develop complete lay thinkers who learn to draw on faith and reason together for the purpose of building up the church and society in Myanmar, because lay empowerment is key to the renewal of the Church and theological education for lay people is essential for the Church.

The purpose of the institute is to enrich the catholic youth with theological and pastoral programs. By offering this program to the catholic youth, they are to take the important role of laity when they go back to their respective parishes. Along with theological enrichment,LAMIN emphasises on Personal Development Plan (PDP) and Human Formation by offering 3 months courses every year.

The main subjects of the institute are: •Life, Revelation, Faith & Reason •Background of the Bible: An introduction •Introduction to Church Teachings (Nature of Dogma & Doctrine) •Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching •Theology for Laity: A Premier •Church in Asia (John Paul II) •The Holy Spirit in Asia (FABC) •English (Grammar & Theological terms)

ALL Forum Online Course Updates!

ALL Forum Online Course Updates!

ALL Forum Successfully completed its second course for Indonesian for participants on the Basic Understanding of Church Teachings on the 21st of August 2021. Forty four Participants successfully completed the course which was held during two consecutive Saturdays. The Participants found the course quite enriching as they were introduced to new perspectives on matters relating to Religion, God, Faith, Paschal Mystery and Trinity.

ALL Forum also Successfully completed its first session of the course Major Documents of Pope Francis – The Joy of The Gospel (Evagelii Gaudium) on the 29th of August 2021  especially for the Vietnamese Participants. This course is held once a month on Sundays. The first session had a great turn out of over 50 participants. There will be 3 more sessions conducted consecutively for them in the upcoming months until November.  ALL Forum has a line up of Online courses for many Asian countries in the upcoming months. Follow us on Facebook for updates and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for informative content and recorded sessions of the Online courses.