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The Great Spirits of IPs in Asia Inspires the World!



Fr. Patrick Gomes

Your Grace Most Reverend Bishop Francis Xavier VIRA, Bishop of Chiang Mai, Renowned Buddhist Master from Thai Buddhism Phra Mahar Dr. Boon Chuey Panyawachiro, Honorable Directors of Woori Theology Institute, Honorable Presenter of AYA/ATF and Director of CATS under WTI Dr. Paul Hwang Kyung Hoon, Honorable Co-presenters, Distinguished Guests, Dear Sisters and Brothers present here:

In the name and on behalf of the Chairman of the FABC Office of the Laity and Family Most Reverend Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, I greet you all with the peace and joy of the Risen Lord! I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate His Grace Most Reverend Bishop Francis Xavier VIRA for his welcoming speech which was very profound, remarkable and guiding. I would also like to congratulate the Honorable Buddhist Master Dr. Boon Chuey Panyawachiro for his welcoming speech which was also very much spirited and rich with values of human life. We would like to thank both of them, the Bishop and the Buddhist Master for welcoming us and for sharing their grace-filled wisdom with us.

“Great Spirits of Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development”, the theme of the ATF program this year is very fitting, which gives us an occasion to look at the lives of our indigenous brothers and sisters and to learn from them.

If the Holy Bible becomes out point of journeying, which really is I believe, then it says that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. As Christians and as human beings, our responsibility is not only to restore human persons in that image and likeness, but also to look for that image and likeness already exist in them. The theme “Great Spirits of Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Development” inspires us to do so. So the “Great Spirits of the Indigenous Peoples” really links us up with the Spirit of God, because anything which is good comes from God. And the good we long for, the good we look for, has to be sustainable and the development which derives from that good will also be sustainable development.

In the 1960s, Pope Paul VI offered his own major contribution to the Catholic social teaching. Popolorum Progressio (The Development of Peoples of 1967), in which he argued that “Development is the new name for peace” and he challenged the ideology of “progress” which fails to meet the legitimate aspirations of the poor. All people are called to the fulfillment and to a sharing in the good things of the earth – and all other considerations in economics must be sustainable to this principle (para 22). He further said that the church claims to be not an expert in economics, but “an expert in humanity” and a voice for the voiceless (para 13), placing three values at the center of the life of the church – 1) solidarity, 2) social justice, and 3) charity.

In the recently held Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, the final statement says: “The proclamation of Jesus affects every aspect of life and stratum of society – the whole human life. Hence, the spirituality of the new evangelizers does not separate our world from God’s Reign. It does not separate the material from the religious, nor does it divorce faith-life from the task of transforming the socioeconomic and political life…” (article 3). Then in article 5, it further says: “The New Evangelization calls for a spirit of dialogue that animates daily living and opts for a unifying, rather adversarial, relationship. Dialogue has to be a hallmark of all forms of ministry and service in Asia”. And I believe that these conferences on Asian Youth Academy (AYA) and Asia Theology Forum (ATF) organized by WOORI Theology Institute, hosted by Caritas Thailand will make the participants more open to the dialogue with the poor, dialogue with the faiths and dialogue with cultures by which the FABC is spirited and guided.

In article 8, the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly statement says: “We have noted in our assembly that the number of victims of globalization, injustice, natural and nuclear disasters, and of attacks by the fundamentalists and terrorists, is growing by the day. Jesus took the sides of the victims of disasters and injustices. He was in solidarity with those cast out of the social mainstream. Solidarity with and compassion for victims and the marginalized has to be an essential dimension of the spirituality of the renewed evangelizers”.

I am sure, these conferences organized by WOORI Theology Institute will influence immensely to discover the great spirits of the indigenous peoples all over Asia. I hope it will inspire people concerned to work with and to work for the indigenous peoples, with and for the migrants, with and for the minorities.

To be concrete and to be practically to the point about the great spirits of the indigenous peoples, please allow me to give you some examples from Bangladesh:

  • Indigenous peoples are less than 2% in Bangladesh. But out of three hundred thousand Catholics (among 160 million people), the indigenous peoples of different ethnic groups are about 60%. They are preparing to take the leadership of the Church and Christian society.
  • One of the government’s top most priorities is forestation. It is very pleasing to see that forests and trees are naturally preserved by many of the indigenous peoples, because it is there in their living, it is there in their nature. They are found to be eco-friendly.
  • The people of the mainstream, quite often in Bangladesh, look for agricultural products from the indigenous peoples, because they are organic.

So the great indigenous spirits still have a lot to share and a lot to teach others.

I would like to conclude my words with lot of felicitations and congratulations to WOORI Theology Institute for organizing such conferences on AYA and ATF with very timely and befitting themes. I am sure these conferences will create awareness and will show ways to make our world a better world, Asia a better and more contributing Asia!

I would like to sincerely thank WOORI Theology Institute and Dr. Paul Hwang Kyung Hoon for having invited me to send my message.

Thank you, brothers and sisters for your patient hearing. God bless you!

<Peace on Asia>, Seoul : WTI 2013