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Bringing the good news to the cloud

MANILA (SE): Bringing the good news to the cloud is one of the challenges identified by some 130 young Catholic Asians from 13 countries, who gathered in Manila, The Philippines, to celebrate the first ever encounter of the Claretian Family and the Youth of Asia East (AEYG + CF 2015) from August 3 to 8.

“Our young people are called to be evangelisers of a new continent—the Internet continent,” Father Eduardo Apungan, the director for apostolate of the Claretian congregation in The Philippines, which hosted the event, explained.

“Young people in Asia have a lot to share to the world,” he continued, describing young people as the multipliers of evangelisation.

Father Leo Dalmao, the Claretian provincial superior in The Philippines, called the gathering in Manila an attempt to consolidate young people in Asia in becoming “evangelisers to other parts of the world.”

He added that the gathering in Manila is a response to the challenge to use new media in evangelisation.

The activities during the week-long event included multimedia productions and discussions about the use of social media as tools “to evangelise the youth in the context of information technology. Hence the theme, Meeting Christ in the Cloud,” Father Dalmao said.

But young Catholics in Asia are also facing a lot of challenges, especially in non-Christian countries.

In Japan, for example, “There are many young people who do not know or do not believe in God,” 21-year-old Ayaka Shimizu, from Osaka, said.

“It is very challenging to be a Christian in my country. There are a lot of challenges in spreading the good news,” she continued.

Gemma Doromal, from the Kaulo indigenous people in the southern Philippines, said the entry of modern technology into the hinterlands has “brought problems, immorality and vices... We lost some of our young tribal leaders who were lured to the cities,” she said in her local language.

Doromal explained that she joined the gathering in Manila “to learn how to deepen our experience with other young people… What we will learn here, we will also share back to our tribe.”

Shimizu said, “The keyword is joy… Christian life is a happy life… People ask me why I am happy and I tell them because I am a Christian.”

She added that young Asian Catholics should not only be activists, but become “happy witnesses of the gospel… People find us attractive and I think this is an opportunity for us to introduce God to them, whether in the streets or on the Internet.”

Nine young people from Hong Kong participated in the five-day event.

“AEYG was a great opportunity for youths in Asia to get together and know each other,” Lucia, from Hong Kong, said.

She narrated an interesting anecdote that had touched her. “Although not part of the event, some of us had a chance to visit the people living in a slum one afternoon with the MC Sisters (Missionary Sisters of St. Antony Mary Claret). These people lived in places with piles of rubbish and their houses were small and dark.

“I guess that was why they preferred sitting outside their houses. We didn’t get off the van, as it was a bit dangerous. As the van drove through the village, a lot of faces looked at me. I thought I needed to do something, so I smiled at them. They smiled back. At that moment, I understand why people say possessions will never bring you happiness.

“Those smiles from these people were simple and true. They were truly happy to see us. Some of them even followed the van and cried out, ‘Sister! Sister!’ The MC sisters must have done a lot of work for them to gain their friendship. For me, it was even more meaningful to see the work of the Claretian family.”

Lucia recalled, “After the visit, I kept reflecting on their smiles. You don’t see this kind of smile in the metropolis very often. Honestly, I can’t imagine myself smiling like them if I lived in places where they are living.

“However, this is exactly what I find amazing. Living in a materialistic world, I learned to weigh everything in terms of wealth. I compared (myself) with others and was saddened to see what I didn’t have. Seldom have I thanked for what I have and given praise to the Lord. Only people who are content with what they have will have happiness and true smiles. I have heard this a lot of times, but it shed some light on me when I saw the smile myself. And I thank God for it.”

Ophelia, another participant from Hong Kong, was thankful for the opportunity of “praying in such an unusual way, which I had never expected; singing and dancing for God is fun and joyful. I can feel the joy in praising the Lord with the local Filipinos and have really enjoyed a lot… It was hard not to get involved in all the activities. Thanks a lot for being so welcoming and approachable to me and the Hong Kong team.”

She was moved by the scenes of “children begging right in front of me and poor people sleeping alongside the road... I have seen it for real.”

Voicing her sense of commitment, she added, “Injustice is everywhere and as Catholics we must stand with them and help them.”


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