Report on my participation, as invited delegate from IMWAC, to the AYA/ATF (Asian Youth Academy/ Asian Theology Forum) held in Suratthani (South Thailand) on August 17 to 27, 2016.


The conference in 2016The last AYA/ATF meetings took place:

In 2013 in Changmai (northern Thailand) Didier Vanhoutte participated as IMWAC representative

In 2014 in Manila (Philippines)

In 2015 in Kerala (South India)

In 2016 in Suratthani, the specific themes were the following :

Youth Forum (AYA): “Solidarity with Migrants suffering poverty and inhumane living conditions.

Asian Theology Forum (ATF): “Sustainable development and integral ecology for peace on Asia”

General purpose of AYA/ATF as defined by Paul Hwang, main responsible of event organization.

Paul Hwang is director of the Center for Asia Peace and Solidarity under Woori Theology Institute, Chairperson of Theological Committee of Pax Romana- ICMICA, co-creator of ALL (Asian Lay Leader Forum)

Young lay activists in Asia are being called to strengthen their Christian identity as they embrace their local, traditional cultures, histories and religions. Although it is a complex work, it is necessary work. For Catholics to succeed in justice activities they need to cooperate with other religions similarly seeking a more just world order. This is yet another reason Asian lay Catholics need solid formation. Inter-religious work begins with solid Catholic formation. It is why AYA/ATF program put much emphasis on “Triple Dialogue” of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops Conference) namely dialogue with the poor, diverse religious and cultural traditions in Asia, as well as Christian spirituality. Unfortunately, because of a lack of resources, they don’t get adequate support from their Church. In some cases they have been largely abandoned by some ones in the Church hierarchy who do not understand or do not agree with the idea of “the People of God” from Vatican II and Pope Francis’ vision of the “synodal church”. While our Church eagerly provides support for seminarians who want to enter the priesthood, it does very little for young lay leaders in great need of Catholic formation.

Participants:

Participants from USA, Pakistan and FranceAround 50 young participants coming from the following countries :

Mostly Muslim: Indonesia (N° 1 in the world in terms of Muslim population), Pakistan, Malaysia

Mostly Buddhist: Thailand, Myanmar

Mixed religions: India, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Mongolia

Mostly Catholic: Philippines

Two young representatives from USA (Call To Action) also attended

15 participants are members of IFF Asia Fondacio (Youth Leadership and Development Center) and 4 others members of Pax Romana ICMS Asia Pacific.

English was the common language for all, but mother language only for Philippines.

In all those countries, except Philippines, Christians are a very small minority and their situation is sometimes due to persecutions, e.g. in Pakistan.

It was recalled that 60% of the world population are Asian, almost half being urban. Only 3% of Catholics in the world are Asian. Therefore, inter-religions are vital for Christians in Asia.

I attended the whole session, as well as Fr Paul Steffen, German Theologian teaching in Rome and Fr Suwat Luangsa-ard, Director of the Diocesan Social Action Center (DISAC).

Other priests, living in Thailand, India and Philippines and other speakers attended partly.

The Forum enjoyed getting to know children at a school for Burmese migrants

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