After in previous years Dr Martha Heizer and Colm Holmes took part in the Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum in Asia organized by Paul Hwang from South Korea on various occasions for We Are Church International . At the forum in August 2023, Dr Martin Schockenhoff presented the German Synodal Way and its influence on the World Synod We are Church Germany supported participation financially
The Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum hosts an annual conference for young people from Southeast Asia who are committed to the church A total of 45 young people from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam took part in this year's event from August 19 to 29, 2023 in Bali/Indonesia Title: “Women, Great Wisdoms, and Intercultural Citizenship Empowering IP's and Urban Communities for the Sustainable Future in Asia” The program consisted of a two-day “field experience”, a three-day workshop and the subsequent Asian Theology Forum (ATF), at which lectures were mainly given by theologians, a Muslim women's rights activist and a guest lecture by Martin Schockenhoff.
The focus of the event was indigenous religious traditions and their relationship to the Catholic faith, the rights of women among the indigenous population and in the church, the preservation of the environment and synodality According to the concept of the event, the workshops, ie the practical orientation, took up the largest part.
Although almost all participants live in large cities (Manila, Jakarta, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh City, Madurai), they have knowledge and personal experience about and with indigenous religions This was clearly evident in the lecture by an indigenous Catholic from Malaysia who also performs traditional ceremonies as a religious priest, such as wedding and thanksgiving ceremonies As part of the field experience, an interreligious yoga school was visited, which was decorated with sculptures or attributes of (Balinese) Hinduism, Islam and Christianity When asked, the yogi replied that the religions were equivalent and that the followers of the mentioned religions believed in the same God The dogma-oriented view of the Catholic Church,
clergy and laity
In the conversations with participants from different countries, it became clear that the clergy in their countries is often more traditional and hierarchical than in Germany It was reported from Korea and India that there was a widespread view among clerics that lay people belong to a sinful world (sexuality, menstruation in women, earning money) In contrast, the clerical class is viewed as “pure” and its task is to show the laity the path to salvation For this reason, the involvement of lay people in the area of proclaiming the faith is often viewed with reluctance It has been reported from Vietnam that the bishops do not support Bible study by lay people That's why laypeople in Vietnam resort to American methods (Lead like Jesus).
It is reported from India that there is also a caste-like system in the Catholic Church The poorer people would be treated as second class citizens in the church, while the better off would claim to make the decisions The bishops also often only have the better-off in mind This is explained using the example of the current unrest in Manipur province Three Catholic women were kidnapped and raped as part of the violent ethnic conflict there Indian President Modi did nothing, and unfortunately neither did the local bishop The local bishop's interest lies in not endangering the existing relationships with the state authorities and the Hindus; opaque self-interests may also be at play.
The issue of climate change and environmental conservation plays a major role in Southeast Asia The main reason for this is not only the acute threat to the environment in many countries, but also the religious relationship of indigenous people to nature Nature is viewed as sacred or divine, and destroying or endangering it therefore violates religious beliefs.
The topic of synodality does not take up the same space in Southeast Asia as it does in Germany Sometimes synodality is understood differently The aforementioned Catholic and indigenous priest from Malaysia understands synodality as the church's willingness to recognize indigenous religious traditions and practices and to promote a combination of the two (“inculturation”).
In discussions with the participants, it became clear that the first phase of the World Synod - the survey of individual believers at diocesan level - had not been carried out at all in many countries or dioceses Meanwhile, some of the topics of the Synodal Path in Germany, in particular women's rights and ordination of women, sexual abuse and cooperation between priests and laypeople, play a major role.
As a guest speaker, I presented the Synodal Way and its influence on the World Synod In this context, I also presented the Rottenburg Manifesto (Council from Below), which met with particular interest because of its grassroots relevance Kochurani Abraham, a feminist theologian from India who was well acquainted with liberation theology, other grassroots movements and the Synodal Way, was very positive and was interested in further information.
The ALL Forum was a highly interesting event characterized by intensive exchange Both from the workshops and lectures as well as in conversations with the participants, it became clear that core topics of the Synodal Path in Germany such as sexual abuse in the church, gender equality and ecumenism/interreligious dialogue are seen as central topics.
Dr Martin Schockenhoff