Maktaba-e-Anaveem Pakistan (MAP) organized a Four Days Live-In Seminar on Art and Spirituality in collaboration Hast-o- Neest (Institute of Traditional Studies and Art) from 9- 11 December 2021 at Theological Institute for Laity (TIL), G. T. Road Sadhoke, Distt: Gujranwala. The main theme of the seminar was “Sacred Art and Spirituality”. Total 45 participants from different places and religions attended the seminar.
The Aims and Objectives of the program of the seminar was led by Mr. Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He said that prejudice is far from spirituality and through these seminars we can bring people towards spirituality. Nowadays, when it comes to religions, everyone is running to kill each other. But when it comes to art and science, everyone agrees and accepts each other.
The main purpose of every art in all societies and all over the world is to bring it to reality. The purpose of art is to draw mankinds attention to reality, which leads us to follow to God. Adding on He said that according to Christian tradition, respect for other religions is a common duty of all of us and through it, we can reduce violence.
The role of religion in society is to bring God among the people with its reality. The creator of the universe from the beginning has called the environment heaven (Firdaus or Aden). God has given it to mankind as a protector. This land is turning into barrenness of unrest. We have to perform our responsibility sincerely with God. We have to strive not only for peace but also to play an important role in reforming and modernizing humanity. No religion in the world can monopolize God. No religion can discriminate against God by measuring its beliefs, principles, rules, acts of piety, and faith truths.
Doing these kinds of actions that religious exploitation of God and religious violence. Such platforms help us to become better human beings and believers. We human beings must strive for interfaith understanding, human unity, solidarity and cosmic balance and peace.
The seminar was divided in five Sessions as follows:
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.
International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Pax Romana as it completes 100 years of its birth
2021 is a monumental year to International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Pax Romana as it completes 100 years of its birth. With its membership of over 1 million spread across over 80 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America is a movement started by the Catholic Tertiary students to respond to the Global war, violence and poverty of all forms.
Since, 1921, inspired by the teachings and Life of Christ and Church’s Catholic Social Teaching, IMCS has stood steadfast to the commitment of creating a World of Justice and Peace. This commitment, has led the movement to respond to thousands of different issues & cries of the world globally and locally. In its growth, the movement has engaged in constant rediscovery of itself as a Student Movement, Church Movement and International Movement. In all its engagement and responses across the globe, IMCS has been an embodiment of Spirituality of Action, Inclusiveness, Ecumenism, Solidarity and Internationalism.
As the Pax Romana is celebrating this special milestone of the life of the movement, rather than a mere century long existence, movement celebrates the century long socially relevant and living spiritual activism. Within the past century, the identity of Pax Romana family at the international, regional, national, and local levels has changed and grown to meet the challenges of the world and the local contexts in which they are active. IMCS Pax Romana sees this celebrative moment as an opportunity of reflection and preparation for the upcoming decades of students’ faith activism in the light of the movements’ historical experience of marching with the marginalized.
Asian Lay Leaders Forum is overjoyed in spirit of the centennial milestone achieved by IMCS Pax Romana. ALL Forum itself was founded and established by Alumni of the Asia Pacific Coordination of the IMCS Pax Romana Movement. ALL Forum is also grateful to the inspiring minds and leaders who have strived for the betterment of peoples and the world at large.
We cordially congratulate IMCS Pax Romana for successfully reaching a centenary and yearn that you may continue your determined journey of faith driven liberation and marching with the marginalized.
FREE PALESTINE! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation!
Jointly organised by National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum
Free Palestine! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation! Took place on the 5th of June 2021. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. Luke 4:18, NIV
For more than 70 years, the Palestinian people have been subjected to immense colonization and occupation of their land. The State of Israel backed up by the US and other Western Countries have continued to imposed institutionalized discrimination against them under the Occupied Palestinian Territories . This Apartheid through Israeli control have resulted to tremendous suffering of the Palestinian people. Massive evictions, land confiscation and demolition of their own homes in their own lands have resulted to unprecedented displacement of lives and livelihoods only exacerbated by chronic poverty amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the years and years of discrimination against the Palestinian people over access to public lands, services and employment have aggravated their situation into searing humanitarian crisis.
To this day, the continuing catastrophe of loss of lands and livelihood remain unabated. The ongoing attacks on Gaza Strip and the West Bank have already claimed hundreds of lives, and disproportionately uprooted the Palestinian people. At least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed in 11 days of Israeli bombardment. On the Israeli side, 12 people, including two children, have been killed .
The plight of our Palestinian siblings of being continuously uprooted from their own homes and land are the same with the situation of our National Minorities in the Philippines. Our Indigenous people along with our Moro sisters and brothers who live in the fringes of our society have also been experiencing decades long of institutional neglect and oppression.
As Christians, we pray for peace in Palestine, we also stand with them to end the on-going occupation of their lands. Our call to Free Palestine also reverberates to the call to free all the oppressed people in the world- especially those that are historically marginalized and exploited. As Christians, we have a critical role to dismantle powers that denies life and subjugate people. For our God is the God of life, and the One that liberates.
With this, the Ecumenical Community through the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Kalipunan ng Kristiyanong Kabataan sa Pilipinas and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum organised a virtual gathering with the theme: Free Palestine! An Online Ecumenical Solidarity Gathering to End the Occupation! In this gathering we deliberated on:
1. Present the historical context and current situation of the Palestine-Israel conflict.
2. Witnessed the historical role of Christianity on the ongoing situation in Palestine; and
3. Extended our solidarity to the people of Palestine as we recognized the connection of struggle of Palestinian people to the Philippines’ displaced people.
Remembering the Great Sacrifice of Bishop John Joseph
Active Youth Group
Born in 1932 to a Punjabi Catholic family, he made history by becoming the “first native bishop” of Pakistan. He played a key role in changing the perception of Christianity as a colonial religion. Indeed, it can be argued that it was through people like Joseph that Christianity found its roots in South Asia.
On May 6, Bishop Joseph went to the Sahiwal court and took his life in protest against Blasphemy law. His suicide note read: “I shall count myself extremely fortunate if in this mission of breaking the barriers, our Lord accepts the sacrifice of my blood for the benefit of his people.”
The symbolism of Bishop Joseph’s sacrifice was not lost on Pakistan’s Christian community, which regarded him highly. It was the ultimate sacrifice, not unlike Jesus Christ’s, for his community. The bishop’s suicide brought global scrutiny towards sacrilegious and discriminatory laws.
He dedicated his life to social organisation and political activism at a time when Pakistan was changing drastically. Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation project had started to alter the very fabric of the society in the 1980s, with religious groups gaining such power they were openly challenging the state’s writ.
Pakistani catholics commemorating his day every year on 6 May where they renew his vows to protect the sheeps and keep struggling for equal rights in Pakistan. Fr. Nadeem Joseph OP, Superior Dominican Community Sahiwal, said that Bishop John was the voice of the voiceless, an example of courage and evangelical devotion,” and his sacrifice “was a cry in the wildness that lifted the veil of silence surrounding extremism.
Bishop John was the voice of discriminated Pakistani,” said Ashiknaz Khokhar, Human Rights activist and Secretary of Active Youth Group. “He broke the culture of silence and spoke out, when no one dared to, against the extremists of the country. We should not minimise his great struggle by reducing it to seminars or anniversaries; we should instead bring it into our daily lives”.
Active Youth Group (Pakistan) Celebrates International Women’s Day 2021
Active Youth Group conducted different events in reference to celebrate International Women’s Day. The purpose of these events was to give awareness to women’s rights and to talk on different problems they face. This year in Pakistan and especially in Punjab, this day was celebrated with more zeal but one thing to underline is very important that this year much more people opposed to celebrate this day too.
One side the media of Pakistan was eagerly showing the efforts and desires of people to empower the women, on the other hand on the same media many popular journalists were opposing the Woman March. Pakistan is one of those countries in which there is the violence against women, they are killed at the name of izat (honour killing), they are deprived of education, and millions are lack of the National Identity Card (otherwise the family is obliged to share their inheritance with them). Pakistan is on the top of the list in underage marriages and highest death rate during maternity. Breast cancer and tuberculosis is very common in Pakistani women because of improper nutrition. Despite all these issues, there are many government institutions in Pakistan which are the hope and consolation for women.
On 7th March women’s Conference was arranged, in which all the representatives of Christians of all around the Sahiwal were present, the teachers, the advocates, students, religious leaders, workers, home based domestics, professional women, illiterate ladies, house wives and all different back ground representation was there. The theme of this get-together was to make them special in society and aware of how and on which platform make their voice be heard.
To show the efforts of the Vatican for the promotion of women, the photo of Sr. Nathalie Becquart (Nathalie Becquart is a French Catholic religious sister and member of the Congregation of Xavières. She was appointed a consultor to the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church in 2019 and named one of its undersecretaries in 2021.) was put on the banner of this event. Rev. Fr. Zahid Augustine OP, the parish priest and the Dominican School Missionary Sisters were also present for this event.
Most beautiful of thing of this event that females performed the cultural dance and performed publicly on stage with young girls. We invited women from villages and different part of the district to join the event which was held in parish school hall.
We awarded two brave ladies with souvenirs award who are active in society for promotion of women’s right and also challenging male society to give rights to women. One lady (Shamsa Anwar) is law graduate and practicing as high court lawyer and other (Shagufta Noel) one is Young Christian Nurses association president in Pakistan. Both are inspiration for others ladies as we have very low average of education within females and rarely they have chances to come out from their own home.
As Christians and Hindu minor girls are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam so our focus was to save our minor girls. According to a data, more than 1000 girls of Christians and Hindus are forcibly converted after converting. These ratios are going high every year as we are finding attacks on churches and worship places of other non muslim believers.
Through these events, we strengthen the voices for positive change within church and put first the stance of our 5 points agenda. We gave voice to females to ask questions and let them aware about their rights and realize them to not tolerate with violence and torture. How to report them in police station and regarding institutions. Misogyny is also taking lead here as there is trend on twitter in Pakistan after women march attack that religious leaders putting blasphemous blames to these women rights activist.
A Joint Statement by ALL Forum to Religious Leaders in Asiaespecially the FABC on the Myanmar People’s struggle for Democracy
Amidst the critical situation in Myanmar, we Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum stand in solidarity with the pain, torment and struggles of the Myanmar people.
On the 26th of March 2021 ALL Forum jointly organised an interreligious webinar with a Burmese Buddhist monk, a Catholic activist from Myanmar, The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and Lay Mission Institute (LAMIN), in order to understand the critical situation in Myanmar and seek ways to support and build solidarity with Myanmar people.
The Myanmar’s military till date continues to defy calls to end the fundamental human rights violations and “return to the path of democracy”. Until now more than 739 people have been killed since the beginning of the coup in February. The UN’s special envoy on Myanmar has called for strong actions against the junta and has warned of a possible “bloodbath” and the risk of civil war. The cry for a solution to the crisis is heard loud and clear in all its urgency.
In a Buddhist majority country, we understand that it is immensely difficult for us Catholics and Christians of other denominations to voice out our opinions against the Military Junta. But right now, in these tough times we cannot stand back; Our sisters and brothers are brutally suffering from the unjust acts and crimes carried out by the Myanmar military and police.
We need to voice out as Myanmar citizens and not as a religious minority. We should make use of this opportunity to unite interreligiously as one human family by getting rid of the preexisting religious and ethnic discrimination. Our union with the Buddhists, other Christian denominations, Muslims, Hindus and the believers of various ethnic religions strengthens our voice in denouncing the Military Coup and for working towards restoring peace among the Myanmar people.
For this, we as Asian Christians support the Easter message of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, who on witnessing painfully that “young and old, and even the children have been mercilessly killed on dark days,” expresses hope for a resurrection by saying “Let the dreams of democracy buried for the last two months in the graves of oppression be resurrected.”
We appreciate that the president of FABC also recognizes that “The struggle so far has drawn huge support from all men and women of good will,” and encourages the youth to engage in “non-violent struggles” that “a new Myanmar of peace and prosperity rise from the grave of hatred and darkness.”
We strongly believe that a new Myanmar of peace and prosperity could rise from the grave of hatred and darkness only if the Christians participate in the struggle for democracy, being at the front line with all the people of goodwill. FABC could give the lead by exhorting Christians to work together with all Religious Institutions, Civil Society Organizations and Indigenous Peoples for restoring peace in Myanmar.
As Pope Francis reminds us in the document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, that dialogue “would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity;” we feel with a sense of urgency that it is now or never that we as Asian Christians act on fostering dialogue and develop strong bonds among the many religious and ethnic groups of Myanmar.
Therefore, We, ALL Forum along with the undersigned organization members urge FABC to motivate the Catholic Community and all the diocesan/archdiocesan leaders of Myanmar to be closely involved in the peaceful protests against the Military Coup. We also request FABC to encourage its member bishops’ conferences all over Asia to support and build solidarity with the people of Myanmar in whichever way possible within their means at this critical juncture of their unfolding story of becoming a democratic nation
April 30th, 2021 ALL Forum
Woori Theology Institute (WTI)
Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Katolik Republik Indonesia (PMKRI)
How Korean Catholic Church Support and Promote Solidaritywith Myanmar People’s Struggles
Organised by Woori Theology Institute and Centre for Asian Peace andSolidarity (CAPS)
On the 17th of March 2021, Woori Theology Institute and Canter for Asian Peace and Solidarity organised an urgent webinar with the theme ‘The Military Coup and People’s Uprising in Myanmar, and How Korean Catholic Church Support and Promote Solidarity’. This webinar was organised to support the Myanmar People and Koreans living there.
This Webinar took place on the Zoom platform and was also streamed live on YouTube. Wayan Tin Maung Win Secretary General of Share Mercy and Dr. Maung John the Director of Lay Mission Institute (LAMIN) were the key speakers in the webinar. Wayan gave the audience insight on the Background of the military coup, the current situation and the demands of the people of Myanmar and Dr. Maung John on the Responses from Different Religious Institutions such as Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus; He elaborated especially on the Catholic, Diocesean, Religious Sisters, Catholic Media and Lay responses to the military coup in Myanmar. Followed by the presentation of the speakers the webinar was opened to the discussion panel to give their critical insights about the situation taking place in Myanmar, drawing close references to similar experiences faced by the Korean people.
Many participants from civil society organisations, religious institutions and church related nongovernment organisation gathered to share their questions and opinions making this webinar an effective one.
The webinar concluded with the intension to raise a monetary fund for the people of Myanmar so that basic necessities such as food and medical aid supplies can be contributed to them.
Webinar The Military Coup and People’s Uprising in Myanmar, and HowAsian Religions can Support and Promote SolidarityInterreligiously
Organised by ALL Forum, NCCP, LAMIN
On the 26th of March 2021, Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum, NCCP in Philippines, and RTRC in Thailand jointly organized an immediate online webinar to consider how we as followers of religions together can support and have solidarity with the Myanmar people. This webinar was organised on the Zoom platform and was also streamed live on YouTube.
For this webinar we had two actors; one is a well-known Buddhist activist monk Ven. Bhikkhu Mandalar Zan and another Ko Htwe a Lay Activist and Project Manager of Lay Mission Institute from Myanmar to share vivid stories about the current situation there and discuss how peace-loving religions in Asia could unite and support.
Bhikkhu Mandalar expressed the situation in Myanmar and the active of role Buddhist monks in the civil disobedience movement and concluded with the immediate help required for the Myanmar people. Following Bhikkhu’s presentation Ko Htwe elaborated on the responses of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus Religious Institutions in Myanmar and also the Catholic, Diocesean, Religious Sisters, Catholic Media and Lay responses to the military coup in Myanmar. He concluded with many points on how we can help Myanmar. Subsequently the Discussion panel consisting of Rev. Irma Mepico Assistant Program Coordinator of the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations (CUER) -NCCP, Philippines; Prof. Francis Lee / Executive director of JusPeace, Korea; Fr. Vinai Boonlue, SJ/ Head of Euro Burma Office Foundation; Shared their critical views and opinions enriching the discussion during the webinar.
Participants from 7 countries namely Pakistan, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines and South Korea joined in this webinar and took back valuable input after experiencing the presentations, Panel discussions as well as the open discussion.
The webinar concluded with a plan to draft an interreligious joint statement addressed to the FABC to motivate the CBCM to join with the other religious institutions of Myanmar and actively participate in the protests against the military coup.
Celebrating love and diversity among indigenous youth
Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministry (JCIM)
This pandemic has inevitably changed the way we celebrate. Physical gatherings are risky, potential super spreader events where people might catch the virus. The next best thing is to take the celebration online: Zoom parties are the norm these days. And while a virtual celebration is certainly different, we do what we can to stay connected.
Last December, two indigenous youth groups–one from the southern Philippines (Bukidnon, Davao, and Culion) and another from the small village of Chingchuan in Hsinchu County, Taiwan– met online for a Christmas celebration organised by the Jesuits working in indigenous ministry. Despite the geographical distance, language barriers and technical difficulties, the youthful energy and spirit of sharing pervaded over the gathering. As Conference President Fr Tony Moreno SJ noted in his message to the group, it was “the only network within the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific to have a Christmas celebration”. This was a true example of how the joy and enthusiasm of the youth, no matter what obstacles they face in life, cannot be extinguished. As Abegelle, a Food Technology student from Bukidnon State University put it, they are “divided by distance, united by the love and hope of our tribes”.
Fr Ambrosio Flores SJ, coordinator for the Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministry (JCIM), and Fr Barry Martinson SJ, a pioneer in this ministry and parish priest in Chingchuan, steered the participants to put together a programme centred on sharing–their identities as indigenous youth, as students, and as talented young people with bright futures ahead. From the livestream in Malaybalay, students from the seven tribes of Bukidnon were resplendent in their multicoloured traditional clothing. Representatives from the Tagbanua tribe in the island of Culion and the Ateneo Lumad Students Association from Davao also participated.
Meanwhile in Taiwan, the lively group of Ayatal youth–all in high spirits from celebrating their Christmas party in the village church earlier that same evening–were bundled up in winter clothing, some wearing Santa hats and holiday accessories. They all had the chance to introduce themselves to each other. Fr Martinson emphasised using song and dance in the programme, which is universally appealing and easy to translate, as English was not spoken by everyone. The presentations were as diverse as the performers: from indigenous Ayatal songs, to traditional Filipino kundiman (love song) accompanied by acoustic guitar, from original rock ballads with full band to classic Christmas carols–and of course, dancing–the spirit of sharing their talents and expressions of joy for the season were palpable.
JCIM has done over two decades of apostolic work with communities all over Asia Pacific– aside from the Philippines and Taiwan, also Australia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia–and continue to accompany the youth, with a focus on integral formation. As indigenous youth often have to struggle with things other young people take for granted and face obstacles like poverty, discrimination, and maintaining their indigenous identity, it is important to accompany and encourage them and provide opportunities for growth.
In Bukidnon, the Kapawa hu Paglaum College Scholarship and Formation Programme supports indigenous students as they strive for “selfgovernance and empowerment, and political, social, economic, and religious inclusion through accompaniment”.
In Chingchuan, while the youth all have the opportunity and resources to complete their education, they are also exposed to the arts through the artistic centres in the village, including the indigenously-designed primary school, a forest arts and crafts village, and the Catholic Church with its mosaics, murals, and stained glass. Thus equipped, they now have to find a way to “advance in society while sustaining and developing their own distinctive culture, to keep their faith in the face of a materialistic society, to preserve their characteristic warmth and hospitality with increasing tourism and opportunities to make money, to find meaning in life when so much has been given to them.” Today, Fr Martinson says, the Ayatal youth “are proud to be what they are. They have come a long way, and it has not been without struggle.”
The gifts from the JCIM online gathering were not in the form of material things. But the participants took home insights with far greater value. “The Christmas encounter made me believe that there is still a thriving fervour of love within the indigenous youth towards one’s tribe, one’s community,” shared Ereca, an agriculture student from the Manobo tribe. Needheart, a sociology major from Bukidnon State University, said: “Sharing with the indigenous youth across Asia Pacific is one of the most memorable moments for me. It reminded me of God’s love for us that is undeniably unending and big.”
If you would like to help the students through the Kapawa hu Paglaum College Scholarship and Formation Programme, please visit this link for more information.