ISIS, 21st century youth and the 2015 synod on family – Commentary

 Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila, NJ Viehland Viehland Photos

 

“Re-communing with the divorced world of youths is a priority task for next October’s second Synod on Family. Indeed, that will be a more realistic pastoral agenda than theological cud chewing about Communion to marital divorcees….”

 

Commentary: ISIS needs ‘Assisian‘ responses, not sniping crusades

By: Hector Welgampola

Amid ongoing Islam-bashing worldwide, comes a bit of good news from the Arab world. According to media reports, in April Qatar will name the recipients of that country’s WISE (World Innovative Summit for Education) Awards for 2015. Given by Qatar’s Education City, these awards have been described by BBC as an effort to recycle oil and gas into knowledge.

“The Emir of Qatar believes that a new golden age can be achieved through education and research coupled with creativity and development,” wrote James Martin, founder of Oxford University’s 21st Century School. The Qatar project would seed “a new Arab renaissance bringing multicultural tolerance, new ideas and education action across the Arab world,” he claimed. Others pin hopes on the project’s Faculty of Islamic Studies, despite lingering suspicion that Qatar funds reach jihadists.

While saluting the project, BBC noted how “events of the Arab Spring have shown the dissatisfaction of a young population with rising unemployment and lack of opportunity.” The Arab world’s youth frustrations have been aggravated by the post 9/11 frenzy to militarily intervene there with a fantasy to impose Western-style panacea for local problems.

Just as lack of social justice incubated communism, prolonged abuse of Arab countries as mere oil wells festered social ills that reignited Islamic militancy. A belated sense of guilt for such abuse led some developed countries to support the Qatar project. A similar sense of guilt should help affirm the inadequacy of military responses to curb frustration-fed jihadism.

Hired armies lack motivation to wipe out guerilla cults or jihadist passion. And eliminating Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or Osama Bin Laden did not make the world any safer. If al Qaeda was a geographically diffused ad hoc network, its modern avatars like ISIS and Boko Haram showcase bin Laden’s dream caliphate still thriving and on martyrdom. The apocalyptic cult goes beyond self-immolation to the ruthless slaughter of those considered to be infidels. It now threatens West Asia, North Africa and beyond.

If Islamism’s extremist outreach has gone viral, it has also gone global. It attracts youths from two sources. Unsurprisingly, it volunteers youths from Islamic nations. Addressing a recent Christian-Islamic dialogue meet run by Nigerian bishops, an Islamic scholar attributed the rise of Boko Haram partly to “the impunity, bad governance and corruption of Nigerian elite.” Qatar-type projects may help replace such self-serving elite with socially committed cadres.

ISIS also draws youths worldwide. Its media-hyped fantasy appeals to listless young men and young women wearied by the depravity of secularized post-christian society. Maybe, an erratic society’s death-peddling obsession with abortion and mercy killing has so desensitized the young even to fancy jihad as an option. Frequent news reports confirm how the jihadist mirage attracts spiritually starved youths from all continents. But, sadly, such youths’ home countries fail to get the message. Their rulers try to prevent the outflow of youths with laws to muzzle social media, patrol borders or deny passports – all inept measures.

Instead, leaders of state, society and religion should heed the unspoken outcry of desperate youths fleeing parents, siblings, peers, churches and country to embrace jihad. The thousands of young men and women opting for jihad are our own sons and daughters. Their drift to ISIS speaks of our generation’s moral failure. Their spiritual thirst is an indictment of our ineptitude to offer them a meaningful goal of holistic life. So, let’s stop stigmatizing them as misled youths or blessing counter crusades. Today’s society needs to find solutions by re-examining our distorted faith-life, fractured family-life, consumerist lifestyles and counter values based on worship of money-culture.

As evident in the recent Germanwings plane crash too, all youths blamed for atrocities are not jihadists. The crisis of today’s youths should alert society to our long abuse of social structures as a mask for power play. Churches and Nations need to return to a moral ethic and restore honesty in public life. The need to wipe out the scandal of duplicity in religio-ethical and socio-economic life was never more urgent. And Church youth apostolates and family apostolates should be so re-oriented as to attract, involve and inspire all levels of youth life and activity.

Meanwhile, initiatives like the March 24 Catholic-Muslim summit in Rome can offer further hope. Interestingly, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, Vatican head for interreligious relations, told the meet of his wish to set up a more permanent mechanism for such interaction. For a moment, it brought to mind the environment of interreligious amity facilitated decades ago by the BIRA (Bishops Institutes for Interreligious Affairs) meets and live-ins organized by FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences). Such interfaith action-in-prayer fosters inclusive pluralism. And a response of relational sacramentalty can better facilitate social awakening than statements, episcopal or papal.

That sacramental mission has to awaken the 21st century Church to a Jesus-like embrace of all youths divorced from community by post-christian secular cults. Re-communing with the divorced world of youths is a priority task for next October’s second Synod on Family. Indeed, that will be a more realistic pastoral agenda than theological cud chewing about Communion to marital divorcees. And instead of premising the synod with a requiem for martyred Christians, let reflection on the waste of life of both jihadists and their victims inspire the synod to seed a Church of Assisian service to the human family.

Hector Welgampola
welgampo@gmail.com

Hector Welgampola

Veteran Asian Church journalist Hector Welgampola from Sri Lanka has retired as Executive Editor of the former Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) based in Hong Kong, then Bangkok. Before UCAN, Hector headed editorial teams of newspapers in Sri Lanka. Since retiring Hector has lived in Australia with his wife, Rita. He authored the resource book Asian Church Glossary and Stylebook.

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Filipino Cardinal Quevedo,Papal Envoy to Japan ‘Hidden Christians’ anniversary

[update March 14, 2015]

OMI, NJ Viehland Photos

Filipino Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato – NJ Viehland Photos

Celebrations in Nagasaki began today to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the “Hidden Christians of Japan.” Pope Francis appointed Filipino Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, will serve as his Special Envoy at the anniversary event which will last until March 17th.

Full report here

Hidden Christians video by Journeyman YouTube

click photo to watch Journeyman Pictures’ mini-documentary on Hidden Christians

Also taking place at the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture until April 15 is the exhibit of more than 500 items confiscated from Japanese Christians during their brutal persecution in the 19th century from the late Edo Period to the early Meiji Era, Japan Times online newspaper announced.

The Times reports that some 550 items are back in Nagasaki for the first time on display in the special exhibition “Miracles Protected by the Virgin Mary — Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki,” include 212 cultural properties rarely loaned out by the Tokyo National Museum at one time.

The exhibit is reportedly taking place because the central government has recommended that churches and other Christian locations in Nagasaki be listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites. It shows the history of Christianity in Japan from the introduction of the faith by Francis Xavier in 1549, to the birth of the “hidden Christians” caused by brutal crackdowns and the confession of their beliefs to a foreign priest by a small group of Japanese in 1865.

Cardinal Quevedo, first prelate on the southern Philippines Mindanao island to be created cardinal, has led the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) as Secretary General from 2005-2011. FABC is a Vatican-approved voluntary association of Catholic bishops’ conferences in Central, East, South and Southeast Asia.

 

Philippines Church ready for Pope Francis

 

Fr Mario Francisco, SJ reviews Tagalog language lyrics he composed for the public Mass of Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta) Jan. 18./ NJ Viehland Photos

Fr Mario Francisco, SJ reviews Tagalog language lyrics he composed for the public Mass of Pope Francis at Rizal Park (Luneta) Jan. 18./ NJ Viehland Photos

… But this is the Philippines, where “the Christian story and Christian symbols have played a very important role in everyday life,” said Jesuit Fr. Jose Mario Francisco, who teaches contextual theology at Loyola School of Theology in Quezon City.

“Even when the percentage of people who have regular contact with the church through Mass and activities may be much smaller than the 80 percent who are Catholic or the 90 percent who are Christian,” Francisco said, “the influence of Christianity in the Philippines remains very strong through devotions, worship, music and other symbols.”

He cited Haiyan survivors who were photographed fleeing…

Read full report

 

 

 

Pope Francis wants to be inspired by the faith of people – Cardinal Tagle

Tagle Ochoa Pinto Papal press con NJ Viehland

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila to journalists 

Press Conference to announce the Philippines Papal Visit itinerary

From Q & A: 

Pope Francis told me that he wants to visit the Philippines and that he really admires the faith and resilience of the people.

I think he will come to bring a message of solidarity and hope.

But I’m also quite certain that he would want to imbibe, be edified and be inspired by the faith of the ordinary people.

man with leprosy on piano Ed Gerlock

People with leprosy have fun on the piano during Christmas season. – Ed Gerlock Photos edgerlock@yahoo.com.ph

Filipino soldiers evacuated from Golan Heights – video conference with Manila

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang and journalists listened to the head of Philippines troops tell via video conference their story of how they escaped from Syrian rebels who tried to seize their firearms at their post in Position 68, the Golan Heights, and possibly hold them hostage.

Read the inside story of what Catapang has called the “great escape” from Golan of troops led by Captain Nilo Ramones.

In a message Catapang read to the troops, who he described as “warrior peacekeepers”, the AFP chief thanked the United Nations, governments of Israel and Syria and “God almighty” for their role in keeping the troops safe during the crisis.

 Following is the full text of Catapang’s prepared message:

 Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat dyan. (Good morning to all of you there!)

At the onset, let me say w are proud of your service to global peace.

As the eyes of the world and the Philippines were focused on what happening to our Philippine contingent in Golan Heights you have shown to the world and the Filipino people that you can hold on to your sworn duties to maintain the peace in Golan Heights and pursue your mandate – peace amidst adversary.

It was never easy but the calming courage and resolve you have displayed was undeniably world class and this will be forever remembered. Under the guidance and concern of our commander-in-chief along with the Secretary of National Defense and Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the AFP ventured to collectively do everything possible to bring all of you to safety.

With the United Nations at the forefront we also thank the host nations, Israel and Syria, for your support and unwavering commitment during that critical period of the crisis. Certainly the spirit of global “bayanihan” in the itnernational front was working.

Most of all we thank God almight for the successful effort to bring all of you out of harms way. I commend all of the Filipino warrior peacekeepers of the 7th Philippines contingent to Golan Heights for showing to the world what we are made of and for showing them what we can do in the service of peace.

We watched as you stood your ground against groups that seek to destroy the peace in this world. Indeed you have shown so much competence and professionalism during this crisis.

I join the Filipino nation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and your respective families in congratulating all of you for a job well done.

Mabuhay kayoing lahat! Mabuhay ang Armed Forces of the Philippines!

You are a source of national pride. Aas your Chief of Staff, I salute you all!

 

No surrender of “love of God” in educating Filipinos – DepEd Sec De La Salle Bro. Luistro

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education - FaceBook Photo

De La Salle Brother Armin Luistro, Secretary of Education – FaceBook Photo

Education Secretary Brother Armin Luistro, a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) denied reports that the department he leads has surrendered its vision of learners formed to be “God-loving,” as claimed in various media reports on the department’s revised statement of vision, mission and values (VMV.)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the same day  issued a statement lamenting the silence about God in the reworded version of the  vision statement.

Brother Luistro explained the new statement of the department’s VMV in a post on the DepEd’s website Friday, Aug. 29. He stressed that the statement of vision, mission and values must be taken in its entirety. Doing so would show that the term “God-loving” remains as a value that the department seeks to promote as stated in the word “Maka-Diyos”, its synonym in Filipino language.

He said specifying the formation of students who are  God-loving, pro-people, pro-environment and patriotic allows values education teachers to develop modules that will form persons of integrity who live out their faith and convictions, while avoiding pietism or ritualism.

“We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners.”

He also affirmed the constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. He said the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue.

Brother Luistro’s complete statement reads:

On 4 September 2013, I released DepEd Order No. 36 s. 2013 in order to update the Agency’s directions and further strengthen our capacity to fulfill our constitutional mandate.  The review of our Vision and Mission was anchored on the Filipino Core Values of *Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa as articulated in Section 40, Republic Act 8491. [*pro-God, pro-human being, pro-environment, patriotic]

Recent media reports have mistakenly attributed to me claiming, “the God-loving phrase was removed from the department’s vision to be fair to Filipinos who may subscribe to other beliefs and principles”. I had not issued any statement to that effect. This attribution is completely false.

Other articles refer to a Christian advocacy group whose spokesperson “aired the group’s dissatisfaction over what it believes is a rash decision on DepEd’s part that had been influenced by some members of the non-religious sector.”  Other local news articles referred to a group claiming to have pressured the Department based on an open letter that they posted on 5 February 2013 via their Twitter account.  I have not had the occasion to interact with any of these groups on this matter.

As early as 2010, discussions on the revision of the VMV were initiated within the department. A series of consultations was conducted with key persons in various levels of the organization, including the regions and school divisions.

It is important that the DepEd’s new VMV be regarded as one document to be appreciated in its entirety.

The term “God-loving” is synonymous with Maka-Diyos. The term Maka-Diyos is essentially connected with Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa and allows our Values Education teachers to develop modules that will hopefully form persons of integrity.  It warns against pietism or ritualism and encourages persons of faith to live those convictions everyday, everywhere.

We maintain that the formation of God-loving learners is a vision that we have not surrendered. We do not have any fundamental disagreement therefore with the position of various groups who wish to promote the love of God among our learners. We affirm the long-established constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” towards religion and spirituality. We also affirm that the department will continue to promote the spirit of inclusivity and remain open to dialogue, as this is a part of learning to live together.

************

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines addresses a press conference at the end of the 2012 CBCP plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila. NJ Viehland Photo

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – NJ Viehland Photos

Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ statement sent to Catholic in Asia 

CBCP President on the 2013 Version of the Vision Statement of the Department of Education

The Department of Education recently re-worded its Vision Statement.  In the past, the department tasked with the formation of our children once envisioned “functionally literate and God-fearing Filipinos”.  Unfortunately, in its 2013 version, there is no more mention of God, nor of the salutary fear of Him that, Scripture tells us, is the beginning of all wisdom.

A vision statement is not an empty platitude.  It guides the articulation of policy.  It orientates plans of action.  While maka-Diyos remains one of the Department’s core-values, we maintain that the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”  This is what Vatican II teaches in “Gravissimum Educationis“. 

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. - NJ Viehland Photos

Children ride a jeep with their mothers in Pasig City, east of Manila, to enroll for school in June. – NJ Viehland Photos

The right of a child to recognize God, to love him and to hope in him cannot be harmful to anyone else, believer or not.  Our pluralistic society indeed accords respect for the option of some to believe and for others not to. This respect for pluralism does not compel civil society to expunge the name of God from public life, especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence. Furthermore, the attitude of our laws in the Philippines towards religion is characterized as’benevolent neutrality’: the accommodation of religion whenever such accommodation does not offend law or public policy.

We exhort our Catholic laity in public elementary and high schools to be zealous in the apostolate of forming pupils and students. Do not get tired of teaching that God is the beginning and the end of all things, that he is the Father who wishes all to have life, and to have it to the full! 

This, our dear public school teachers, is your particular mission in the life of the Church, the dignity of your calling as evangelizers within the world and its concerns.  It is a challenge of particular urgency in this, the Year of the Laity. Stand up for God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

August 29, 2014, Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS   

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan  

President, CBCP

************

At least 20 million students enrolled in public pre-school to high school in school year 2011-2012 and 3 million reportedly enrolled in private schools for those levels.

 
 

 

Strength from faith, Rosary – American journalist Foley slain by IS

Photojournalist James Wright Foley who the US government confirmed has been executed by Islamic State captors had reportedly said his faith and praying the Rosary during captivity made him feel close to God and his family.

Stories about how their Catholic faith and the Rosary carried him and his family through agonizing days of his captivity spread after the the National Security Council announced on Aug. 19 that the U.S. intelligence community judged as authentic, a gruesome video of Foley’s beheading released Tuesday on social media by the Islamic State movement.

Read the full story of how faith and praying the Rosary gave Foley and his family strength in the face of death

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