Print Version    Email to Friend
Landmark Youth Day for Cambodia and Laos

PHNOM PENH (SE): What may be regarded as a run of the mill youth gathering in Hong Kong takes on an entirely different meaning in Cambodia and Laos.

In what is a big breakthrough in countries where any gatherings of more than five people are frowned on by the authorities, more than 100 young people gathered at three different locations in Cambodia under the sponsorship of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia from August 10 to 16 to celebrate the first ever Youth Day in either country.

AsiaNews reported that in a manifesto published on the final day of the event, the young people highlighted their intention to “affirm the dignity of every person and commit themselves to the common good and the protection of creation.”

The few young people from the two countries who have attended Asian Youth Day in the past have been amazed at the freedom of association that young people from other countries enjoy.

Because they have grown up under regimes with highly restrictive policies on the gathering of people, they actually begin to believe in their own minds that large gatherings are bad.

Consequently, they are often reluctant to join in bigger gatherings and can lack the social skills to cope.

A sister from Cambodia told the Sunday Examiner that the Asian Youth Day experiences have been invaluable for those who attended and she hoped that they would share about the great value such gatherings offer to young people.

Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, the apostolic vicar of Pakse, and Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, both joined in the week-long camp.

They said that the Church as a whole has also suffered from the restrictive policies on gatherings.

Although they the Churches in Laos and Cambodia have been united under the same bishops’ conference since 1968, the bishops were not been allowed to meet for many years.

“Now, every year we can meet alternately in Laos and Cambodia. These meetings are important moments of exchange, understanding and communion, in which joint initiatives are planned, such as the Youth Day, which we are celebrating with great joy,” Bishop Schmitthaeusler said.

The bishop said that paying attention to the values pushed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is extremely important.

“The world is changing fast. The ASEAN common market is just around the corner. But will this space be successful if it is only built on economic foundations and policies? We Catholics in southeast Asia must do our part and contribute to this construction, with the aim of walking together towards peace and justice. The young people responded with great enthusiasm to this appeal.”

The young people pledged to engage in the construction of the common area of ASEAN at a “spiritual and human level, by promoting brotherhood, peace, justice and freedom, and giving a voice to the poor.”

The week-long camp was full of moments of prayer, listening, dialogue, reflection and celebration. 

It was held in three places in Cambodia; Tangkok, Phnom Penh and Battambang.

The closing Mass, which was concelebrated by Bishop Ling and Bishop Schmitthaeusler, was held at Battambang.

More from this section