AYA ATF Thailand 2019


‘Heed the cry of the Earth and the cry of the Poor.’ (Laudato Si)

We, lay leaders, priests, Religious, and young church workers from 12 countries from various professions and backgrounds gathered at the Communal Life of Love and Unity of the Mountain People (CLUMP) Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 1st to 10th August, 2019.

We discussed various issues under the theme ‘Wisdom of Religious/Cultural Traditions in Asia as Responding to Ecological Crisis and Human Security’ in a forum organized by Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum, together with Research and Training Centre for Religio-Cultural Community (RTRC), and Communal Life of Love and Unity of the Mountain People (CLUMP) as the local hosts.

The 70 participants present at Asian Youth Academy (AYA) and Asian Theology Forum (ATF), 2019 recognized the urgency with which we need to address climate change and the disproportionate effects it has on the poor; peace building and inter-religious dialogue to build united action on preventing a global catastrophe.

We learned and realized synergy in the complementary relationship between formal education and Non-Formal Education (NFE) like that of Montfort College and AYA/ATF. CLUMP as a local host of the pan-Asian program for youth has played an important role including providing the venue for the program for which St. Gabriel Brothers has worked. The men’s religious congregation runs Montfort College which provides a solid “basic and formal” education for junior and senior secondary students. Representatives from the college joined the AYA/ATF program so that they could learn what have actually been happening in societies and religions in Asia today. In return, we young participants from other countries in Asia for AYA/ATF could also get a chance to learn their culture and religious traditions. We believe that it was a good example of how formal and non-formal educational learning could strengthen each other in a complementary manner which needs to explore further various type of collaborative models as an “effective and synergetic” educational training device in the future.

Indeed, it was a great privilege and opportunity that we as young Church-related organization actors could know and learn many “new themes” to us though they would take time to be fully digested: Poverty of farmers and Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Asia with regard to UN Declaration on the Right of Peasants and Other People (UNDRPOP), People having suffered living along the Mekong river because of mega-dam projects, Introduction and significance of Pan-Amazonian Synod in Rome this October, Women’s role in various religions and protection nature like what Pope Francis calls “Integral Ecology”, Gender justice, Contribution of laypeople in establishing “synodal church” in the world and many country reports presented from the young participants themselves.

We as all the participants in AYA/ATF, however, are saddened by the tremendous unjust practices in civil society and within the church hierarchy, which has drastic effects on the disadvantaged. There is a need for the People of God to assert their baptismal gifts and actively respond to Pope Francis’ call to “synodality” or “walking together” or “journeying
together” by taking up a prophetic leadership and decision-making positions within the Church alongside the clergy and Religious not below them.

We call on global citizens to set up creative synodal ways of decision-making, not only within the Church but also in government, community, and society especially in Asia, the continent dominated by authoritative regimes, patriarchal and male clergy-centered religions, and human-trafficking for pedophilia, forced marriage, human organ trade and surrogacy all of which are against human dignity and rights especially women and girl children.

We believe that we should share the same responsibility to make the world a better place not only as a follower of Catholic church but as a citizen of the global village. The key to ensure human security for the poor and the marginalized in many countries in Asia as well as Latin America and Africa, and integral ecology is collaborative governance with various civil societies including diverse religions and Faith-Based Organizations (FBO).

We, thus, call upon all governments, members, and organizations of civil society, and citizens to recognize our co-responsibility towards a sustainable development that is the Earth-centric and non-violent attitude and simple lifestyle based on egalitarianism with nature. It is, therefore, urgently needed for all of us to commit to do the necessary things for the protection and rights of the disadvantaged and Mother Earth.

We demand to break the culture of silence existing among us. We invite all citizens to join us in this quest to create “earth jurisprudence”, commit ourselves for protecting forests and other natural resources, foster peace and inter-religious dialogue not only based on religious identity or teachings but also “global citizenship”, and practice gender equality and the inclusion of women in all sectors.

AYA ATF 2018 Philippines

Towards Improved Conditions and Inclusive solutions for the People at the Margins amid Limitless Development and Ecological Crisis in Asia

‘Ask the beasts, and they will teach you…’ (Job 12:7)


Our common home is at the tipping point of a climate catastrophe. Our environmentally damaging lifestyle is putting the innocent and vulnerable Creation at risk. Asia, which is regarded as “third world” or “developing world,” has vulnerable groups of people including women, the Indigenous People (IP), the Dalits and the children, who suffer the unjust consequences of irresponsible lifestyles and systems promulgated by globalisation led by neoliberalism. We have struggled to survive typhoons, floods, droughts, famine, and tsunamis. We have witnessed how the Earth, to which we are all intimately connected and in which divine presence abounds, is ruthlessly destroyed for capital gains. In a serious attempt to arrest this downward spiral of destruction, and to bring about a new life-giving world-order with a special focus on IPs, 70 youths from 14 countries participated in the Asian Youth Academy (AYA)/Asian Theology Forum (ATF) under the theme, “Peace in Indigenous Peoples’ Lives amid Limitless Development and Ecological Crisis in Asia,” from 27th July to 5th August 2018 in Tagaytay, Philippines.

Issues Addressed

  1. Sustainability Development: During the AYA/ATF, we were exposed to the reality of the common problems faced by most Asian countries. Particularly disturbing are the attempts by governments to squash IP’s rights to land in an attempt to direct resources towards profitmaking capitalist entities. We have often erroneously assumed that technology and modern developmental strategies have the answer to all problems. However, in our race for the accumulation of wealth, we have left behind our connection to our ecological roots. It is only through the practice of eco-spirituality, in dialogue with indigenous spiritualties and ecocentric values from Asian religions, that we can regain this relationship with the spirit of Earth guiding us towards sustainable solutions.
  2. Education & Information Communication: Considering the internal conflicts over ideology within national politics, it is important to create a balance between progressive and conservative perspectives, supported by educated and logical reasoning. Youth need to undergo and undertake training that will enable us to engage more effectively in making peace between different ideologies, religions, and cultures.
  3. Development for Youth: Youth today are victims of a fast-paced industrialization with education and potential careers designed to feed this system. We need a new economic system that puts people and environment before profit.
  4. Intra-Church: We have become aware of the degree of human rights violations in our respective countries and the role of the Church in alleviating these violations. However, social outreach is controlled and limited due to the lack of a democratic leaderships within the church hierarchy and equal representation of the laity. The church that had claimed to embrace “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties, of the men and women of this age, especially of the poor or those who are in any way afflicted” as its own (1) is can be seen only in social outreach and action towards justice. Christian institutions are often lacking in democratic and quality leadership, are embroiled in internal politics, and remain hindered by anthropocentric, androcentric, and hierarchical thinking. We, as members of the church who are actively engaged in various ecological and transformative efforts, seek the support of our church leaders to promote justice and equality within the Church leadership.
  5. Self-assessment of AYA-ATF and Post-Forum: We, the young people, have already taken a step towards leadership by attending the AYA/ATF, dialoguing and discussing the urgent issues that challenge our people and our generation. We are determined to put our ideas and solutions into action to help us effectively be the change and influence society.


We want to see more than mere ‘tokenism’ by global leaders and want discussions and sustainable action in every community that includes but is not limited to:

  1. Sustainable Development: Pope Francis clearly suggests by saying: “For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change ‘models of global development’…..Put it simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” (Laudato Si, no.194) We know it is impossible for sustaining life on Earth by continuing “business as usual”. Taking Francis’ suggestion seriously, we have to put all our efforts to change the model of current economy system which focuses mainly on technological and economic development. We need to put in practice the 7R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Repurpose & Regenerate, resist the temptation of consumerism and throw-away cultures and practice the spirit of stewardship and to maintain and strengthen the relationship among the various secular & religious groups, institutions and individuals involved in this forum.
  2. Church Reform: There is a need for increased synodality (3) between Church hierarchy and laity with horizontal leadership. Movement from a vertical ‘command and control’ form of leadership to Jesus’s revolutionary practice of horizontal ‘mutual-accompanier’ leadership structure (4) is an urgent need. We also need to see increased women’s leadership and in decision-making roles within the institutional Church. There needs to be representation of all persons as lay leaders, religious, clergy and bishops – that we may work together towards ecological justice. There is a need for an improved understanding and promotion of ecospirituality within the Church, inclusive of local cultural practices without judging them as ‘pagan’ or ‘demonic’.
  3. Youth Affairs: Youth need development and formation that help them to challenge and transform misogynistic and hierarchical mind-sets which affect the society, family life, and the Church. It is time to bring the Catholic Social Teachings to the forefront.
  4. Education and Information Communication: It is necessary to be with the community in building resilience among those on the margins of society. We need to be involved in the promotion, training and advocacy for sustainable, social economies, respecting indigenous wisdom and ecological sustainability. Learning from, working with, and supporting sustainable lifestyles of the IPs and developing solidarity platforms that advocate their rights to life and land and basic human dignity. Social media today can effectively be used to highlight and promote solutions to issues that affect our planet and people and use our affinity to technology as a tool and space for evangelisation.
  5. Improvements for AYA and its afterward: Climate change affects the whole planet. This discussion should not be limited to Asia alone, but dialogue between the east and west may result in better understanding of the direct and indirect impact of lifestyle choices on global temperature rise. We appreciate the Pope’s initiative of a Synod for the Youth in 2018 and we hope it will help make the Catholic Church more welcoming towards the young people, women, IP groups and LGBT+ (we are glad to see that the term has appeared for the first time in the official Vatican documents as it is used in the “working document” of the synod.), without discrimination, for the common good of everybody.

We appreciate the Synod’s usage of the term LGBT in a positive manner which we believes symbolizes the Catholic Church has become more open and inclusive to all the minorities in the world.


On our part, we commit to continue to participate and lead movements that advocate the rights and protection of IPs in our respective countries and on international levels. We also commit to continually observe and support the ‘cleansing’ activities within Catholic Church, as it brings order in the chaos of abuse, financial mismanagement and cover-ups caused by faltering clerics and Christian leaders.

We believe that Pope Francis’ ‘Listening Church’ (2) is the way forward in real and mutual respecting and learning from the “others as others” in the world. Thus, we are dedicating ourselves to the cause of creating awareness, education and communication, advocacy and action needed to develop Christian and secular communities that can help the IP groups build resilience to calamities.

The vulnerable indigenous groups, at risk due to the actions of the ‘developed’ communities, need us to listen to their ancient wisdom so we can support each other. We, the young people, want to move upwards from ‘discipleship’ towards leadership in Church and society in supporting IPs and towards delaying the effects of Climate Change.

In our experience, we have seen that our statements, appeals, suggestions, and demands for support and real change has elicited little real action and commitment from the Church and political hierarchy. Like the apostles, we continue to take on the challenge of being authentic witnesses of social sustainable development and human liberation. At the same time we want to alleviate the conflict in the relationship between the clergy and laity, corruption, financial mismanagement, and abuse. In supporting this endeavour, the Church’s hierarchy will experience the support and love from youth which, combined with the teachings of Jesus, will make our community one of mission and service acting upon Jesus’ message ‘to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of
sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free’ (Lk 4: 18, NIV).

#EarthPeople #IStand4IPs #EcoYouth #IPLivesMatter

AYA ATF 2017



We, the Asian Lay leaders from 13 countries, have gathered at the Asian Youth Academy (AYA)/Asian Theological Forum (ATF) to share knowledge and common experiences related to the theme: “Asian Youth, Champion for Building a New World Centering on Peace, Sustainable Development, and Ecological Justice” from 22nd July to 31st July 2017 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This forum brought together people from countries: namely, Austria, Bangladesh, China, France, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. In discerning the signs of the times through discussions in the forum, we recognize that there are various global problems which threaten to slow, halt and even reverse the ‘Integral Human Development’ emphasized in Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs) that humanity has made in pursuing the common good for all.

The 71 participants in the event representing church-related NGO activists, theologians, and various church workers working for social actions and youth envision an “Asian Lay Council” which could be a representative body to promote dialogue with the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). It is so that the People of God in Asia could provide collective and timely responses to solving today’s multifaceted problems plaguing our common home.

Discerning the signs

of the time In articulating the local Asian contexts, we find common themes that run through our discussions, such as the destructive impact of an aggressive and limitless developing impulse. We also acknowledge the indifference of youth all over Asia, who feel as if they have no freedom to make informed social, economic, political, and spiritual choices in their contexts. Especially we learn that:

  1. Conflict and violence around the world, especially religious intolerance is increasing frequently and intensely, while the income disparity between rich and poor is widening and at its all-time highest;
  2. Gender equality has slowly improved but the patriarchal culture and system still affects the political, economic, social, and even religious spheres of the society and church in Asia. Misogyny is still widespread, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas;
  3. There is a limitless and unquenchable consumerism in most parts of the world, making an equitable use of resources difficult. This leads to corruption, poor governance and prevent many, especially among developing nations from achieving democracy and a just economy for their peoples;
  4. There is still a lack of personal and political will to deal with climate change, global warming and other ecological issues;

A missionary call to an integral ecology for and with the people

Inspired by Pope Francis’ repeated calls to action, based on recent theological developments on “Integral Ecology” clearly expressed and stressed in his encyclical “Laudato Si” and new strands of missiology, we believe that the solution to these issues is radically Christian (and ultimately universal) in nature. To elaborate, our concept of mission is to be a ‘broader sense of evangelization’ stressing on ‘humanity’. That means to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized suffering as Jesus Christ himself has done. His radical empathy – becoming utterly human to relate totally with other humans – is what Christians, and indeed everyone, should strive towards. This is the only means to build a bridge and unity amidst diversity.

In the Francis’ notion of integral ecology, we find the importance of combining integral human development, gender justice, ecological awareness and knowledge based on the spirituality of “everything is connected” which we interpret “I am because you are” an ancient wisdom from Asia and Africa.

Reading the mystic, St Francis of Assisi’s spiritual teachings in relation to other local traditions’ views on nature, we find that the dynamic between human and nature goes beyond duality, conflictual, competitive, and exploitative relations. In fact, it is a peaceful, familial, relational and mutually dignifying interbecoming which provides for its stewards, creates beauty for all, and gives glory to God.

Consequently, conventional economic theories, based on competition and profit no longer suffice to provide solution to today’s world. In navigating the difficult terrain between libertarian and socialist forms of economics, we find that the general principle “everything is interconnected” in the Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs) could be a possible way that promotes sustainable development. Therefore, we reaffirm our Christian values and obligations to develop the human in a holistic manner focusing on “change of the current model of progress.”

The Asian Lay Leaders’ Commitment and Suggestions

We, Asian lay leaders, continue to respond to and accept the challenge to reach out to the marginalized communities that we are working with. Heeding the call to “love your neighbors”, we are deeply committed to building a common home for all. However, this cannot be done by us alone. We hope that governments, the churches, educational institutions, corporations and individuals as part of the civil society will join us hand-in-hand to make our common home a blessing to all. Therefore, we suggest:

  1. Asian communities, representing truly diverse peoples and cultures, continue to promote dialogue across communities. In recent years, many movements have surfaced and proliferated with regards to inter-religious dialogue. This is a good development, but we believe more needs to be done in order to counter extremism and violence. There also needs to be a more concerted effort in the regional cooperation to promote human rights for every Asian citizen.
  2. The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) need to recognize, support and empower the laity by having a dialogue with them at the diocesan, national and the continental level. For this, we suggest FABC to support lay leaders in Asia to form an “Asian Lay Council” as a representative body of the laity. Further, the FABC could help local bishops’ conferences in the continent to form “National Pastoral Council (NPC)” which does not exist in many Asian countries in order to promote dialogue with the laity. In NPC, clergy, Religious and laity could discuss, work, and make decisions together for a new vision of being church in Asia. Such a “synodolity” or a “process of making a decision together” is one of most important thoughts and deeds of Pope Francis.
  3. The business communities in Asia need to be more concerned about themarginalized and undertake, more fervently, social responsibility initiatives like “Social (Solidarity) Economy” so that they could support the development of marginalized communities and the ecology. In the same way, all educational institutions should encourage inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue for peace among diverse religions and cultures, which is life itself of people in Asia.
  4. The public to commit to, firstly in their immediate spheres of influence, a sustainable lifestyle, by firstly, adhering to the principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle”, and then by participating and creating community and societal initiatives to address ecological issues on a wider scale.

We pledge our commitment to an ‘integral ecology’ for changing the world by joining in the prayer of Pope Francis:

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ [246]

AYA ATF 2016


We are the laypeople, religious, priests and young activists who have gathered for the back to back fora with the overarching theme: “Peace, Sustainable Development and Ecological Justice with Special Focus on Migrants and Refugees in Asia” from 17th to 26th August 2016 in Suratthani, Thailand.  This program aims to empower young lay leaders in Asia working on social ministries of justice and peace, human development, and ecology.

The Asian Youth Academy (AYA) forum highlights the importance of being in solidarity with the indigenous peoples, the migrants and the refugees’ suffering in poverty, helps us realize their inhumane living conditions that they suffer.

And the Asian Theology Forum (ATF) guides us to reflect on the 2030 Sustainable Development goals vis-à-vis the realities of ecological destruction and conflicts and wars. Both fora are organized by the Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum and hosted by the Diocesan Social Action Center of Suratthani Catholic Foundation at the Pastoral Center of Suratthani Diocese.

We are a total of 66 participants who come from the countries of Cambodia, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, and Vietnam. We all sympathize and to a certain extent, empathize with the plight of the suffering migrants, refugees and indigenous peoples.

We are alarmed that the ecological crisis, in its ugly form of environmental destruction, deforestation, climate change, has reached to an almost irreversible level. And we are troubled that this crisis has led to more conflicts and abuse of human dignity; has marginalized the already poor communities, and even more endangered the lives of the migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons and Indigenous Peoples.

We call attention of the larger public especially the international and local humanitarian organizations, churches and religions through our network to bring justice and human dignity to them.

From knowledge based on experience we understand deeper about migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons and ecology. We are inspired to launch the projects that benefit our communities. In other words, we make the commitment and act together to save our earth and to re-create eco-justice, to promote human dignity, and to reach our ultimate goal of living a sustainable life.

We embrace the upcoming challenges presented to us by the realities that we were made aware of. And we hope to put into practice what we have learned . We are diverse in our characters but we face common problems. Countries may have their differences in polices but we can be one in our quest for the common good. Thus, we call everyone to be with us in the following:

  1. We encourage all Asian Governments and Civil Society to respond to the sustainability and environmental issues through enactment of policies based on the sustainability principle.
  2. As the continent with diversity, Asia must be the place to live the various ways of dialogue; inter-religious dialogue, inter-country dialogue, inter-cultural dialogue for safeguarding human dignity and peace.
  3. We appeal to the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) to recognize and support the Asian young people as catalysts for church renewal and social change in Asia, and to empower them for this task.
  4. We also appeal to FABC to send a message to its member local bishops’ conferences asking to come up with a practical pastoral policy for the agendas of ecological sustainability, social change and church reform  on each parish, diocese and national level.
  5. We commit ourselves to liberative engagements and actions in each country at the local and global levels.