Youth, Church and religion in Asia
di Emiliano Stornelli
Young people throughout Asia represent a positive and promising gift to the Catholic Church, as well as a challenge because of their expectations and the particular circumstances of their lives. The collection of essays titled “Youth, Catholic Church and Religions in Asia” examines the variety of issues concerning the new generation and the mission of the Church in Asian countries
Young people throughout Asia represent a positive and promising gift to the Catholic Church, as well as a challenge because of their expectations and the particular circumstances of their lives. Amid dehumanizing social and cultural conditions, ethnic and religious discrimination, the digital and postmodern characteristics of this era of globalization, Asians youths are crying out their existential need for life, meaning, and for love. This longing can be satisfied with the encounter with Jesus Christ, the living God, who invites them to meet Him personally through the Church, so that they may discover and fulfil their true life. Against this backdrop, the collection of essays titled “Youth, Catholic Church and Religions in Asia” (Urbanian University Press 2018), examines the variety of issues concerning the new generation and the mission of the Church in Asian countries. How can the Church proclaim the Good News of Jesus, His Cross and resurrection to young people in Asia? How can they be accompanied effectively in their life journey toward salvation in Christ? The spiritual formation of young Asian Christians is of the utmost importance for the Church, in keeping with what Pope Francis has envisaged for the upcoming Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, scheduled to take place in October 2018. The Church in Asia must be committed to young Christians, and should not be afraid to encourage them to embrace an authentic and demanding Christian life, aimed at serving God and meeting the divine human call to love and to work.
Youth, Catholic Church and Religions in Asia provides increased knowledge and understanding on the current situation and the prospects of the new generation of Asian Christians. From the Subcontinent to the Western Pacific, prominent leaders, scholars, and experts walk the readership through the multifaceted contexts challenging the missionary identity and Christian Faith of the youths, as much as the promptness of the Church to meet their actual missionary and spiritual needs. The way to understand the so called millennials is to enter their world, as Most. Rev. Joel Baylon, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Youth, Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines observes in the Introduction. New technologies and media, combined with the rampant materialism of contemporary societies, are source of disorientation, loss of sense of purpose, and fading Faith among them, calling the Church to renew its approach to pastoral care and accompaniment, it is argued by Fr. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen OFMConv, President of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure and the main author of the chapter on the Vietnamese new generation.
According Jayeel Cornelio, PhD, Director of the Development Studies Program, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, if the Church wants to reaffirm that Catholic schools are beacons of hope for today’s young people, religious education must be adapted to the unique situation of its intended audience. To this end, Acacio Pinto, a researcher and analyst specialized in socio-economic issues concerning Timor-Leste, urges the Church to continue playing a major role in addressing the educational demands of the youth. He attests that spiritual formation is necessary to ensure that their Christian Faith may be truly consistent and experienced in their daily life, while vocational training will endow them with the skills and competencies sought after by the labor world.
Facing the challenges to Faith witness and religious freedom in cross-religious environments, Fr. James Channan OP, Executive Director of the Peace Center Lahore, Pakistan, maintains that an increased engagement of young Christians in the community and political life would enable the creation of a more amenable environment for moderate instances and actors, with a view to turning the tide of fundamentalism and advance interfaith harmony. In the same vein, Fr. Victor Edwin SJ, Secretary of the Islamic Studies Association, Vidyajyoti College of Theology, India, invites the Church to promote the rise of a new generation of Christian leaders and intellectuals, who would effectively represent the Christian standpoints in the public space, addressing the tensions between majority and minority groups through interreligious dialogue and cooperation.
The importance of building a culture of dialogue between young people within a proper theological framework is emphasized by Fr. Heru Prakosa SJ, Professor of Interreligious Studies, Wedabhakti Pontifical Faculty of Theology, Sanata Dharma University, Indonesia. In the steps of Jesus Christ, young Christians in Asia must have the courage to go into the world and engage with other communities, and work to build bridges across religious boundaries for the sake of peace, reconciliation, and the common good.