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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Catholic schools launch nat’l congress on family set on papal visit

Congress on the Filipino Family SMX NJ Viehland

[l-r] Dennis Salvador SMX Convention Director of sales, Dexter Deyto VP/Gen. Manager signing with Miriam’s Rose Bautista, Jose Arellano, OIC Executive Director of CEAP, Maricel Salapantan, MC High School Family Councilpresident. / NJ Viehland Photos

Updated Nov. 19, 2014

Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll College), has teamed up with Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) member schools and ABS-CBN media network to convene the National Congress on the Filipino Family.

The national congress is slated on Jan. 16-17 coinciding with Pope Francis’ Jan. 15-19 visit to the Philippines, but is not included in the Pope’s itinerary.

The congress to launched today supports the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that closed in Rome Oct. 19 on the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. “It aims to highlight the voice of the laity in discussion of what actually takes place within the family,” organizers said in their press release. 

Miriam College High School principal Edizon Fermin, Adviser of the Executive Council National Congress on the Filipino Family said organizers hope to be as open and inclusive as possible. The congress will gather a broad range of participants, including same-sex couples who have raised families, “housebands” who have shifted from the traditional roles of household men, career-oriented couples juggling work with parenting, teenaged mothers abandoned by the fathers of their children, separated parents with custody of their children, children orphaned by soldier parents, children growing up in the digital world. These are also topics to be discussed in engaging talks and workshops.

Ed Fermin of Miriam College hands to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the working document of the Congress on the Filipino Family convened by school family councils, PTA particularly from Catholic Schools - NJ Viehland Photos

Ed Fermin of Miriam College hands to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle the working document of the Congress on the Filipino Family convened by school family councils, PTA particularly from Catholic Schools – NJ Viehland Photos

Fermin presented last September the congress concept paper to Cardinal Tagle which Fermin said was drafted primarily by parents’ associations during the cardinal’s Theological Hour lecture on the 2014 synod at Loyola School of Theology.

Related post

CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas: Random thoughts at the close of the synod 

Synod on the Family: Commentary by Hector Welgampola

 

 

Post-Synod thoughts – CBCP President Villegas

Archbishop Socrates Villegas. - NJ Viehland Photos

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan / NJ Viehland Photos

THE SPIRIT BLOWS WHERE HE WILL!
Random Thoughts at the Close of the Synod

I have just finished attending the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, convened by the Holy Father, Pope Francis.  It was my privilege not only to listen to the debates and interventions.  I also had the privilege of addressing the assembly on the role of the clergy in family renewal.  Much has been written and reported on in respect to this event, truly momentous in the life of the Church.  It is my duty, as President of the CBCP, and as a Synodal father, to share with you these thoughts at the conclusion of the synod.  It is, as has repeatedly been underscored, only the prelude of more complete discussions in the future that we all eagerly await.

INCLUSIVE AND FAITHFUL LOVE

There are two concerns of the Church: first, the Church must be able to extend to all that hospitality, that care, that mercy that Jesus ordained would be the mark of his community, his Body, the Church.  None should be systematically excluded because of circumstances personal to the individual.  All should be aided in the path of constant conversion and renewal.  All should be offered the hope of the Gospel.  All should be comforted by the love of brothers and sisters in the One Body of Christ. In this regard, Pope Francis warned us of the temptation to be simply “do-gooders”, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.

In the name of misplaced mercy Pope Francis said we face the temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

The other concern is as legitimate as the first: that the Church must preach a message that is not just a concession to popular demand, but is truly Christ’s, and that the Church must remain constantly docile to the prompting of the Spirit.  This is the reason that the Church must be unceasingly devoted to that discernment by which we all seek out the will of God and read from the Gospels, as interpreted by the Tradition of the Church in a living faith, a response to the questions of our time. There is also a temptation, according to Pope Francis, of  hostile inflexibility that is, wanting to close oneself within the written the letter and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises; within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous.

HURTING FAMILIES

Filipinos who presently find themselves in irregular relationships — live-in unions, de facto separation from spouses and partnerships with other persons — must be helped by pastors particularly by the Sacrament of Penance, to follow the demands of true and unselfish love in the Spirit of the Gospel. We cannot presume to judge and condemn.  Rather, the presumption should be that there is a genuine effort on their part to live according to the demands of our faith.  The danger of scandal should never stand in the way of genuine charity, and the Catholic faithful must be reminded that much of what Jesus did was scandalous to the ‘righteous’ of his time.  Where, however, in the pastoral assessment of bishops and priests, the full and unqualified admission of persons in irregular unions to the life of the Church causes charitable and sincere Catholics to doubt and misunderstand the teaching of the Church, then some prudent arrangement must be worked out that will be beneficial to all.

PERSONS WITH SAME SEX ATTRACTION

Persons with homosexual orientation are sons and daughters of God; no less than any of us is.  Discrimination against them is contrary to the Gospel spirit. Verbal and physical violence against them is an offense against the good Lord Himself.  Through honest dialogue and pastoral accompaniment, it should be our goal to assist them to respond to the demands of chastity and that purity of body and heart that Jesus, in the Gospels, calls ‘blessed’.  When they wish to make an offering to the life of the Church according to their talents, abilities and gifts, the Church as mother provides for them.

To the legislators who consider giving legal recognition to same sex unions, the Church declares there is no equivalence or even any remote analogy whatsoever between marriage between a man and woman as planned by God and the so-called same sex unions.

We can be tempted to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing, said Pope Francis.

CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

In facing our Catholic brethren in painful broken marriage situations or our brothers and sisters with homosexual attraction quietly struggling to be chaste, Pope Francis said we must avoid two temptations: The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast; and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick, add to their already unbearable burdens.

Our Filipino Catholic laity must be fully engaged in the apostolate of the family for the family is precisely the competence of lay persons.  Active Catholic couples are asked to lead in initiatives that assist couples in living the reality of the sacrament of matrimony, and in the rearing of their families according to the spirit of the Gospel.  Our bishops and pastors encourage and support these lay initiatives.

I wish to borrow this prayer at the end of the Message to the People of God at the conclusion of the synod:

Laguna,NJ Viehland

Husbands, wives serve in farmers’ cooperative in Laguna,NJ Viehland

Father, grant to all families

the presence of strong and wise spouses

who may be the source of a free and united family.

Father, grant that parents

may have a home in which to live

in peace with their families.

Manila,NJ Viehland

Manila,NJ Viehland

Father, grant that children may be signs of trust and hope

and that young people may have the courage

to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

Alabang,NJ Viehland

Workers packing coffee in Alabang,NJ Viehland

Father, grant that all may be able to earn bread with their hands,

that they may enjoy serenity of spirit

and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.

Elderly people dance during party by Ed Gerlock

Elderly people dance during party by Ed Gerlock

Father, grant that we may all see flourish,

a Church that is ever more faithful and credible,

a just and humane city,

a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

 

Rome, October 19, 2014

+ SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan

CBCP President