ALL Forum successfully completed 4 sessions of Online Course for members of Pemuda Katolik in Indonesia. The Online Course was lead by Fr.Heru Prakosa SJ with the main theme “Promoting Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue for Common Good: A Challenge for Catholic Youths in the Indonesian Context”. Week wise we dealt with ‘Youth extremism’ in the first session, ‘Globalization and the role of media’ in the second session, ‘Significance of Interreligious education’ during the third session and ‘Challenges and opportunities: Indonesian youths and citizenship’ in the last session.
Every week around 25 participants actively joined and spent an effective 50 minutes of Lecture which was followed by 30-40 minutes of open forum for discussion. During the second and third session ‘Globalization and the role of media’ and ‘Significance of Interreligious education’, two Muslim guest respondersNugroho Noto Susanto and Kyai Ahmad Suaedywere invited to participate and share their views so that we could enrich our learning experiences. The participants found this format more interesting and useful as they were able to directly ask their concerns and discuss with Nugroho Noto Susanto and Kyai Ahmad Suaedy followed by their 30 minutes of sharing. All recordings of the Online Course can be found on Youtube Channel @ALL Forum Asian Lay Leaders. The reading material can also be found in the Archive section of our website. Please subscribe to stay updated and connected with ALL Forum.*
In August 2022 ALL forum facilitated Moving School in Bangladesh with the theme theme “Youth for Interreligious/Intercultural Dialogue and Collaboration Promoting Religio-Cultural Pluralism for Public Good” along with Bangladesh Catholic Students Movement (BCSM) students.
It was a very interesting experience to understand how Interreligious interactions take palace in communities, especially, among indigenous communities who have adopted Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Around 45 participants actively participated during this Moving School in Bangladesh. On the first day during community immersion the participants divided into 4 groups visited 4 different areas viz. Madhupur in Thangall District, Nalitabari and Jenaigati both in Sherpur District and Kalmakanda in Netrokona District.
Some participants of Moving School Bangladesh 2022
The first group visited Madhupurin Thangall District were engaged in learning about the land grabbing issues faced by the indigenous community living there by the Bangladesh forest department for the purpose of lake digging. Another group visited Nalitabari in Sherpur District to engage with three indigenous communities, especially to learn how they are able to live harmoniously amid preexisting cultural and religious differences between Koch, Hajong and Garo communities.The third group visited Jhenaigati area also in Sherpur District to understand and learn about the land grabbing issues and importantly about deforestation and rampant destruction by wild elephants in the area. And the last group of participants visited Kalmakanda in Netrokona District to spend time with the local communities and learn from their experiences when they were drastically affected by the recent July Floods in Bangladesh and also understand the issue of sand mining from river.
Followed by the Immersion, participants were engaged in 5 workshops spanning over 3 days. We dealt with thematic areas such as “Vicious Circle of Poverty and Corruption in Bangladesh: What Could, or Should Youth do about it?” With the morning session lead by Mr. Apurbo Mrong,the Regional Director, Caritas Mymensingh; who dealt with “Reason Why Poverty and Corruption Worsened in BangladeshToday: Role of Civil Society including Church and FBOs” followed by the afternoon session lead by Br.Guillaume de Wolf, a Taize Brother and Social Worker; on “Promoting Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism forthe Peace between Religions and in the Society”.
On the second day of workshops we dealt with the thematic area “Youth for Promoting “Synodality” or Synodal Church for Human Rights and Interreligious Dialogue/Cooperation”with the morning session lead by Mr. Paul Hwang,Director, Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum; on “Significance of Synodality and Its Implementation for Interreligious/ Intercultural Citizenship for Common Good”followed by the afternoon session lead by Mr. Neilan D’souza, Coordinator, Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum; on “Youth as Advocate for Human Rights especially Women in Bangladesh” Co-facilitated by Mrs. Rosey Rongma, from Caritas Mymensingh.
On the third day of workshops we dealt with the thematic area“The Cry of the Poor the Cry of the Earth: Justice and Peace for the Humanity and the Earth” with the morning session lead by Mrs. Suborna Poli Drong, the Executive Director, Shanti Mitra Somaj Kolyan Songshtha; on “Promoting Harmony and Reconciliation between the Nature and the Humanity by Practicing ‘Ecological Conversion’ and Sustainable Development in Asia”. We ended the workshops with a thorough synthesis which helped the participants connect and realise the need and importance of likely workshops. We closed the program with a closing mass followed by a Cultural evening where the Bangladeshi Youth transformed the evening with their wonderful talents through various song, music and dance performances.*
On the 31st of march 2022 International Movement of Catholic Students hosted a Webinar with the theme ‘Empowering Women in the Church and Society’. The resource person for the webinar Professor Dr. Ana Maria Bidegain, from the International President, International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA-Pax Romana) shared her insight on three key aspects.
Equality between man and woman – a central dimension of Christianity: Biblical perspective and the teaching of the church.
What empowerment is and how the forms of power in the society and church work
The experience of IMCS building a Synodal Church has allowed for women’s empowerment.
She further explained on how the ‘Rise Of Women’ in church and society is a ‘Sign Of The Time’ and also expressed how the movements have given birth to a ‘New Theology’ entailing a pedagogical and theological maturity which is the basis of Liberation theology and also of Catholic Feminist Theology.
The webinar was joined by around 35 catholic Youth from Asia. This Webinar also marks the launch of IMCS AP’s Comission on Women Empowerment And Gender Equity.
On February 22, WTI held an online seminar in which it invited Abu Masoon Abdul Yekeen, a Muslim student from Nigeria, in Kyungbuk National University to listen to what he and his colleague students have been experiencing around reconstruction of a small mosque for them. He has explained what happened.
Reconstruction work has been suspended for a year due to the strong objection and protest of some residents near the mosque whose ownership belongs to Muslim students. The university has Muslim students from various countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan. Abdul Yeekin is one of the 150 graduate students taking mater’s or doctoral programs in it. In 2012, they rented a space near the university and used it as a prayer room.
In 2014, because of the rental fee was sharply raised they decided to buy a house around the mosque with the money they had saved every month to prepare a better place for their religious activities. But the old house was not good to be used as a Islamic center because it used to leak during rains and had poor heating infrastructure as it was too old and small. In 2020, it was decided to purchase a building near the center and then proceed to reconstruct the building. It was smooth until the stage of demolishing and reconstructing the identical building.
However, on February, 2021, residents filed a petition in the district office against the reconstruction of the mosque. On the following day, the district office released an order of suspension of the reconstruction work. Residents said that many people would come to the mosque making lots of noise and bad smell coming from very strange culture for Koreans. They are also worried that when the Islamic temple is built, it will become a Muslim village which would threaten to ruin their life there. Concerned, the Muslim students designed the building with the sound and smell proof device and said that they will offer the joiners to stay inside the temple only during Ramadan. But negotiations did not take place.
Pastor Park Sung-min, a commentator in the webinar, who has been in solidarity with the Muslim students, said that it is “discrimination” that the district office ordered the suspension of construction just one day after residents filed a petition against the reconstruction of the mosque. He said that it would have been different if it were a church, a Buddhist temple, or a cathedral, not a Muslim mosque. Their opposition and conflict has been deepened due to the administrative order of the office. He said that “If religion and race are different, can’t they be neighbors?” is a key question. If we can’t accept the Muslim students as our neighbors, it’s like breaking our community. Rather, creating a community with diversity is what we should aim for, he stressed.
The day after Christmas, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the Anglican Church, who devoted his life to ending apartheid in South Africa breathed his last. Archbishop Tutu, along with Nelson Mandela, is widely known to have led the South African white regime’s struggle to abolish the apartheid system implemented against many black people from 1948 to 1991. For this achievement, he became more famous when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Although the direct cause of his death was not revealed, the recurrence of cancer diagnosed in the late 1990s and the recent frequent access to the hospital, and the old age of 90 years old are considered the reasons.
How can I remember him and say something about him to you? Let’s follow a brief timelines in relation to the topic of this writing. The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that he is a human rights activist who has fought against “racism” throughout his life. Born in the Johannesburg slums, he worked as a school teacher and started a family, and was only ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960 when he turned 29. From 1978 to 1985, he served as secretary-general of the South African Church Council and entered the campaign against black discrimination in earnest. It became the centerpiece of promoting the brutality of the police against black people, preaching peace, and leading the democratization of South Africa and the struggle for black freedom. In 1986, he became the first African-American to become an archbishop in Cape Town.
In April 1994, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, came to power and went on to politics. From the large salaries received by Mandela’s government ministers to the corruption of former President Jacob Zuma’s government in 2018, he continued to play the role of a “moral conscience” that caused direct criticism.
Archbishop Tutu, who served as chairman of South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation Committee,” was also actively evaluated for pioneering the path of racial reconciliation with the slogan “No future without forgiveness.” Later, he also published a book titled this slogan. In this writing commemorating him, I reflect on what the basic idea was behind in this cry of “No future without forgiveness.” This is what I would like to think about and share with readers of this newsletter published by ALL Forum. Of course, it must have been the Christian faith that inspired him and gave him the power to overcome all kinds of adversity throughout his life as an Anglican priest and human rights activist, but I would like to remember the spirit of Ubuntu, a traditional South African idea he advocated with Mandela.
According to Tutu, Ubuntu has so many meanings that it is difficult to define in aword as the ideological root of his peace movement. Given a person who is “generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate” you could say that the one is true and sincere to Ubuntu. Or you could say “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Among various definitions and interpretations of it, however, I prefer Tutu’s own paraphrase: “I am because we (you) are!” The strong and insightful words could definitely encourage people to care for others regardless race, sex, age and nationality. It must apply not only to peoples in Africa but those in Asia also. I have often used the sentence in my lectures for online courses on Catholic social teachings by ALL Forum for Asian young Catholics. The talks in last year was the case.
In Fratelli Tutti , Pope Francis mentions “Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people.” (no.182) Pope Francis’ focus on brotherhood and social fraternity emphasizes the urgency of Ubuntu or ‘interconnectedness’ in reality. Yes, it is necessarily related to another his thoughts in point: “Everything is interconnected” which appears three time in Laudato Si as they are.
This idea comes to be culminated in the idea of “We (humans) are (a part of) nature” (LS, no.139). If we take it seriously we could get out of such a die-hard dualistic world views which divides into the two: humans or nature, heaven or hell (earth), men or women, good or bad, and clergy or laity…etc. Nearly all of theologians and church people too have been so heavily indoctrinated by the “subject-object” dualistic thinking that many of them read the No.139 and don’t even notice how revolutionary it is. If we do, it will lead us to setting up a whole different relationship with other humans, nature, and all things in universe. Therefore, it is important for us to “change” such world views and put it into practice in many movements led by Fath-based organizations (FBOs) especially ecological movement. Remembering Tutu and his Ubuntu, that should be one thing at least we should be willing to learn from for the better world.
“Rejoice and be glad” (Mt 5:12) is the Exhortation on “the call to holiness in today’s world”. Pope Francis highlighted that holiness reflects the Beatitudes, holiness is Joy, and holiness is the Foundational Vocation. The pope invites everyone to become saints in a practical context.
So how do I live my vocation to holiness in my daily life? I am very happy to join the ALL Forum Online Course on the exhortation “Rejoice and Rejoice”, although I have also read, studied, meditated, etc. on this topic, but this online course has left me In my feelings, emotions:
I am more convinced that the journey which I am on with “A Cloud of Witnesses”, encourages me to know that many people of all backgrounds respond to the call to holiness. In communion, “Surrounded and led by the friends of God, … I do not carry alone what I cannot carry alone. All the saints of God are still there to protect and support me”, and because of this my life is lighter and more peaceful.
To become a saint is not to withdraw from work or to devote myself to prayer, but to become a saint is to live in love and bear witness to God’s love. I am called to this holiness in a very personal way according to my state of life and mission, as I live the present moment to the fullest; with love, trust and commitment to the plan which God has laid out. Due to which I feel that my life has meaning, happiness, joy, peace…
Furthermore, my degree of sanctification is determined by the degree to which Christ takes possession of me so that each day I become more like Jesus in the way I think, speak, act, and live my life expressed through relationships with God, brothers and sisters and creation. Gradually it formed in me a life of balance between contemplation and activity. It was Jesus Christ who contemplated me, sending me to my fellowmen, where I discovered His hidden presence, you in turn send me back to the contemplation of Christ. This invites me to try to see God in each person, in every thing (seeing God’s image in brothers and sisters, in the poor, in the sick, in the flowers, in the grass, in the birds… small everyday things with great love)
The more I become a saint, the more I have to bear fruit in my life every day. Every day I try to fight with my selfish, passionate, sinfulness… daring to go against the current to live the call to holiness. Although I still have many weaknesses and limitations, I am always convinced of God’s love and grace for me through the intercession of the saints.
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:
As we begin the month of November, continuing the theme of justice in the world for the second time, it is crucial for us to understand the term Justice more deeply and in connection with our daily christian lives.
The Church received three very important teachings from Jesus Christ himself: 1) The mission of preaching the Gospel message, 2) Universal kinship and 3) A consequent demand for justice in the world. Out of which the Church tirelessly practices only the mission of preaching the Gospel, while the latter two are usually neglected. We as Lay faithful, often only follow the duties of attending Sunday mass regularly, joining in prayer services, participating in charitable and voluntary works lead by the church but never practice our faith beyond these matters mainly because we are not aware that it is our Christian responsibility to do so.
Paragraph 38 of ‘Justice in the World’ informs us that “The members of the Church, as members of society, have the same right and duty to promote the common good as do other citizens. Christians ought to fulfill their temporal obligations with fidelity and competence. They should act as a leaven in the world, in their family, professional, social, cultural and political life. They must accept their responsibilities in this entire area under the influence of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. In this way they testify to the power of the Holy Spirit through their action in the service of people in those things which are decisive for the existence and the future of humanity.”
Therefore we cannot simply neglect Jesus’ teachings of Universal Kinship and A consequent demand for justice in the world because, it altogether forms the core identity of being a true follower of Christ. As mentioned in the paragraph above we must act as a leaven (transforming influence) in our own little ways, accepting that achieving Universal Kinship (being inclusive and finding relation with one another as one family) and striving for justice through action inspired by love and right is our Christian responsibility.
Asian Lay Leaders Forum was able to complete another session of its online course on the major documents of Pope Francis – Gaudete Et Exsultate in October, exclusively for Vietnamese Participants. The Participants during this session enjoyed a fruitful Input Session followed by an interesting Question and Answer session for about 45 minutes which brought about a broader understanding of various concepts such as ‘Holiness’, ‘Mysticism’, ‘Practical Mysticism’and so on.
The final session for Pakistani participants could not take place that same evening due to an internet outage in Paksitan and awaits being rescheduled. Meanwhile Subscribe to our Youtube Channel and browse there to view all our recorded sessions.
This month IMCS AP’s CLAP program will be based on the theme Religion. It will take place between 12th to 29th November. Kindly join their session by registering at the link below. Last date to apply – 9 November 2021.
This is the subtitle of the third part in the document Justice in the World . It includes what I have already mentioned in the previous issue ‘the Church must first be just in people’s eyes when it says something about justice.’(no.40) The document also shows its support ‘diversity’ of the voices of the People of God by pointing out “freedom of expression.” “The Church recognizes everyone’s right to suitable freedom of expression and thought. This includes the right of everyone to be heard in a spirit of dialogue which preserves a legitimate diversity within the Church.” So the church should not be excluded such diversity, rather it promotes and guarantees plurality in ideas, interpretation and thoughts on church teachings and even dogma by learning to be “listening Church” stressed often by Pope Francis.
In the same line with Gaudium et Spes , the document on world bishops’ synod points out the principle of the Gospel when it comes to the relationship between State and the Church: “In regard to temporal possessions, whatever be their use, it must never happen that the evangelical witness which the Church is required to give becomes ambiguous. The preservation of certain positions of privilege must constantly be submitted to the test of this principle….”(no.47) The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World cleary supports the said idea right above: “[Church] will even give up the exercise of certain rights which have been legitimately acquired, if it becomes clear that their use will cast doubt on the sincerity of her witness or that new ways of life demand new methods….In this, she should make use of all the means—but only those—which accord with the Gospel and which correspond to the general good according to the diversity of times and circumstances.”(no.76.e)
Justice and Daily Life of the People of God
The document of the Justice in the World is quite meaningful for laypeople as itlinks justice to everyday life of Christians as a believer and a citizen at the same time. “Christians’ specific contribution to justice is the day-to-day life of individual believers acting like the leaven of the Gospel in their family, their school, their work and their social and civic life. …. Accordingly, educational method must be such as to teach people to live their lives in its entire reality and in accord with the evangelical principles of personal and social morality which are expressed in the vital Christian witness of one’s life.” (no.49) It goes on to spread and expand the ‘double membership’ as a faithful and a citizen to the extent of a world citizenship which concerns what happens in theworld today: “…This cooperation concerns first and foremost activities for securing
human dignity and people’s fundamental rights, especially the right to religious liberty. This is the source of our common efforts against discrimination on the grounds of differences of religion, race and color, culture and the like.
Collaboration extends also to the study of the teaching of the Gospel insofar as it is the source of inspiration for all Christian activity…”(no.61) The synod document notes that the principles it follows are found in CSTs from Rerum Novarum to the letter Octogesima Adveniens . There is a remarkable connection between the one of its most significant paragraphs and the one which
mentions “salvation by deeds of justice.”(no.56) The former is the phrase of ‘Action for justice as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel’(no.6) which is closely interrelated to the latter: In the better understanding of the world situation provided by Gaudium et Spes, “Christian works out their salvation by deeds of justice.” The document clearly mentions the principle ideas such as human rights, international justice, the right to development, political action found in Pacem in Terris, Mater et Magistra, Populorum Progressio , and Octogesima Adveniens respectively influenced by the Gospel itself and Vatican II, particularly Gaudium et Spes . It also put much emphasis on peace by saying that “It is absolutely necessary that international conflicts should not be settled by war, but that other methods better befitting human nature should be found. Let a strategy of non-violence be fostered also, and let conscientious objection be recognized and regulated by law in each nation.” (no.65)