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.

 

‘Put an end to the fossil fuel era,’ say bishops at climate conference

Marikina, NJ Viehland

Flooding in Marikina City during Habagat / NJ Viehland photos

A group of bishops attending an international climate-change conference in Peru called upon the international community “to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels, in order to protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change.”

“Central to this is to put an end to the fossil fuel era, phasing out fossil fuel emissions and phasing in 100% renewables with sustainable energy access for all,” the bishops said.

X FABC group picture

Xth FABC Plenary Assembly, Dec. 2012, Xuan Loc, Vietnam / NJ Viehland Photos

The nine bishops include representatives of the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM), the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC), and the French and Brazilian bishops’ conferences.

“We express…

Read full report

Flashback: Why Pope Francis’ supposed “revolution” isn’t new for some in Asia

By NJ Viehland

AMOR, NJ Viehland

Religious women postulants offer flowers at Mass at 2013 AMOR meeting in Tagaytay City, Philippines/ NJ Viehland Photos

Taking renewal in the Church as the overarching theme of its structure, reflection and activities through the past four decades, the FABC has drafted what Father Arevalo calls a “map for evangelization in Asia.”

        

NCR PCNE tagle arevalo by NJ Viehland

Father Catalino Arevalo (right) with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila at the 2013 Philippine Congress on the New Evangelization in Manila / NJ Viehland Photos

 MANILA — “It’s a new world,” Jesuit Father Catalino Arevalo, premier theologian of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), says 40 years after the Catholic association was formally established.

         Retracing the FABC’s journey in an interview at Loyola House of Studies in Quezon City, he marveled at how “the average Catholic person today with all the new media is very different from the ordinary Catholic person when I was a young priest at 40 in 1960.”

         He said he never imagined that people in the mountains of Bukidnon province would see the multi-awarded Grammy winner Lady Gaga on television nor the Philippine popular artists as they performed more than 560 miles northwest in Manila. In his view, this reflects a similar situation in many Asian nations.

         In bringing the Gospel to the peoples of Asia, “we are like Jesus and the first disciples,” said the priest who has advised Asian Church and other leaders. “We have to start anew.”

FABC, Mapping Evangelization in Modern Asia

          More than 50 presidents and delegates of the 19-member bishops’ conferences (were to be) guided by this same spirit of renewal and vision of evangelization when they gathered in Vietnam for the Tenth FABC Plenary Assembly (X FABC Plenary Assembly) Nov. 19-25, 2012 , [1] the latest of such assemblies. They represented local Churches stretching from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to East Timor (Timor Leste) in Southeast Asia. The theme of that year’s assembly was: “FABC at Forty Years – Responding to the Challenges of Asia: The New Evangelization.” 

         The delegates were joined by resource persons as well as observers from the Vatican, other continental bishops’ groups and funding agencies, all accompanying the bishops as they reflected on opportunities and pastoral challenges that society presents the Church in Asia in the 21st century.

         The FABC plenary assembly, held every four years, usually brings together about 100 bishop-delegates with about the same number of resource persons to study a particular theme, pray together and draft a statement at the meeting’s close.

X FABC group picture

Xth FABC Plenary Assembly in Xuan Loc, Vietnam, Dec. 2012 / NJ Viehland Photos

         The working document for the event invited the delegates to discern how the Church can spread the Gospel in societies of Asia impacted by dynamics triggered by globalization, cultural diversity, poverty and many other factors. They will also try to take account of concerns such as: migrants and refugees, indigenous peoples, population, religious freedom, threats to life, social communications, ecology, laity, women, youth, Pentecostalism and vocations.

         The Holy See approved the statutes of the FABC in 1972. This voluntary association of bishops’ conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia was formed “to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good.” 

        Since the start, Father Arevalo has served as a resource person, writing adviser and theological consultant for the FABC. Bishops who pioneered the federation were just settling back in their dioceses after the close of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962-1965). They forged their plans for the FABC as local Churches in Asia grappled with questions on how to spread the Gospel in a “new world” being born after the colonial period

        Taking renewal in the Church as the overarching theme of its structure, reflection and activities through the past four decades, the FABC has drafted what Father Arevalo calls a “map for evangelization in Asia.”

Local Church

         “The FABC already made a general map of evangelization in Asia” in the 1970s, Father Arevalo pointed out, and its primary agent has always been the local Church.

          When Asian bishops came to Manila during the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1970, they met to discuss setting up a permanent structure by which Asian Church leaders could gather regularly to share their experiences and develop among themselves what local Churches could do to bring the realities of Vatican II to life in Asia. “Local Church” refers to the Church in each country, Father Arevalo explained, and the FABC gatherings were envisioned to “begin with bishops, but not just bishops.”

         Among those who gathered in 1970 were several prelates who would be instrumental in bringing the FABC to life, including Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan of Korea, Cardinal Valerian Gracias of India and Cardinal Justinus Darmojuwono of Indonesia, as well as Archbishop Mariano Gaviola of the Philippines and Bishop Francis Hsu of Hong Kong.

         In 1971, Bishop Hsu convened a meeting in Hong Kong for the presidents of 13 episcopal conferences, a gathering that would become the FABC Central Committee. Today, 19 episcopal conferences in Asia are FABC members : Bangladesh, East Timor, India – CBCI (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India), India – Syro-Malabar, India – Syro-Malankara, India – Latin Rite, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos-Cambodia, Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan (ROC), Thailand and Vietnam. The newest member is the bishops’ conference of East Timor, which was launched just this year. Previously, the youngest member was the Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan, which officially joined the FABC in 2008.

         The FABC also has associate members in nine Asian places that have no episcopal conference. Three are dioceses: Hong Kong and Macau in China, and Novosibirsk in eastern Russia. Four other associate members are in Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The remaining two are Mongolia and Nepal.

         In India, four distinct episcopal conferences belong to the federation. The bishops’ conference of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and that of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church represent the Oriental rite, while the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India represents the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. CBCI, the general body for the whole country, was among the FABC’s founding members.

         The first FABC plenary assembly in 1974 brought hundreds of bishops together in Taipei. The statement and recommendations they issued under the title “Evangelization in Modern Day Asia” spell out the perspective of the Asian context, as well as the FABC vision and approach to evangelization in the region.

         The statement stresses that the local Church immediately and primarily must be the agent, the subject of evangelization, in contemporary Asia. Father Arevalo elaborated that instead of always waiting for instructions from Rome on exactly what to do, “The Vatican Council already said it is time now for each of the local Churches to reflect and define how they see and how they prioritize the work that they must do.” Even so, he added, the FABC has always acknowledged that local Church activity would always work together with Rome.

         “It’s just like a man and a woman who are married now,” he continued. “Must they ask their grandmother or grandfather what they do each day of their lives? No. They get advice and direction from the grandfather or the grandmother, but it’s their responsibility to know what they must do with their own family, following with fidelity what their grandparents taught them also. So that’s the meaning of the local Church’s priority of responsibility.”

Part 2 Triple Dialogue

[Written for a project: 40 Years of FABC, September 12, 2012]

[1] The Xth FABC Plenary Assembly was actually held Dec. 10-16, 2012 to make way for a surprise consistory then Pope Benedict XVI set for Nov. 24 to create new cardinals, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila.

published with permission, FABC Office of Social Communication Executive Secretary

Drumming “future” nuns welcome delegates to the FABC’s 10th plenary assembly in Vietnam

Vietnamese women in formation to be religious sisters welcomed bishops and other delegates and guests to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) at Xuan Loc Pastoral Center, east of Ho Chi Minh during opening of formal sessions on Dec. 17, 2012.

Tran Ngoc Khoa captured their fiery performance here

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