Talisay City, Cebu, Philippines, 10 August 2019 -- The Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum organized the Asian Youth Academy (AYA) and Asian Theology Forum (ATF) at CLUMP Center, Chom Thong, Chiang Mai, Thailand from August 1 to 10, 2019. There were around 60 participants from one European and twelve Asian countries.
The ALL Forum is a pan-Asian movement aimed at empowering lay Catholic leaders of Church-related NGOs and organizations. ALL is aimed at ‘social ministry’ which includes those working in development, including peace, justice and ecology. The AYA-ATF is a yearly event which gathers interested young lay leaders and social-pastoral workers. The program includes the following: presentation of Country Reports, Exposure-Immersion, Inputs, Theological reflection, group discussions, and Action Planning and Evaluation.
The Salesian Youth Movement-Philippines participated. Fr. Vince Michael Sabal, SDB (SYM-FIS Delegate) and Gary Christian Larce (SYM-FIN Senior Youth Leader) were representatives for the program.
Chiefs from nearby villages led an opening ritual on the first day of the program. The participants received a ‘unity’ bracelet symbolizing the theme of the program. Then aCatholic priest gave a blessing for the success of the whole activity. The next three days were spent in exposure and immersion with the villagers. On the fifth day, the participants of the forum came together to share their experiences. Workshops and inputs followed until the tenth day.
Current issues were seen through Asian perspective and context: on ‘Laudato Si’ and its application in the different fields, inter-religious dialogue, capacity-building for young leaders, establishing a ‘synodal church’ and the role of lay people especially women in the Church, from Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) to Basic Human Communities (BHC). A Cultural Show was held where participants shared their traditions, cultures, and food.
Bishop Francis Xavier Vira Arpondratana of Chiang Mai was the main celebrant at Holy Mass. Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan gave a talk on ‘Breaking the Culture of Silence in Asia.’ The conference concluded with the drafting of the Message of Asian Young Participants in 2019 ALL Forum for Clergy, Religious, and Lay People of Asia. Member organizations were asked to make an action plan as resolution after the AYA-ATF.
Other Salesian Youth from Nepal and Vietnam were present at the AYA-ATF. Through the conference, we saw the different realities in the Church and heard the diverse experiences of other young people in Asia. The encounter showed us that a bright future lies ahead of the Church.