Pax Romana ICMICA Asia/Pacific
Daejeon Forum on the 8th Plenary Assembly of FABC 2004
(Daejeon Forum on FABC)
Lay Participation in New Way of Being Church in a Globalising World
1. We, the participants of the Daejeon Forum on FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference) under the theme ‘Lay Participation in New Ways of Being Church in a Globalising World”, held at St. J. Hasang Education Center, Daejeon, South Korea from June 6 to 10, 2004, greet the bishops of Asia as they come together for the 8th Plenary Assembly of FABC on “The Family towards a Culture of Life” in Daejeon, South Korea from August 17 to 22, 2004.
2. We, lay men and women, religious and clergy from various countries mainly from Asia including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea and Sri Lanka, had come together, on the invitation of Pax Romana-ICMICA, which organized the Forum in collaboration with its constituent members, the Woori Theology Institute (WTI) and the Korean Catholic Women’s Community for a New World (KCWC).
3. We had come together, deeply convinced that FABC plenary assemblies are great moments of grace for all sections of the Asian Catholic community and that the family, the theme of the 8th Plenary Assembly very intimately concerns all of us. The Forum is our humble effort to promote and facilitate lay participation in the preparatory process towards the Plenary Assembly.
4. The Forum was a follow-up to the Manila Forum on the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia (Asian Synod) which was organized prior to the historic event of the Asian Synod in Rome, from April 19 to May 14, 1998, and participation in the 7th Plenary Assembly of FABC held in Samphran, Thailand in 2000.
5. Before coming to Daejeon, we had participated in a preparatory process of national level consultations, facilitated by the ICMICA Asia-Pacific regional team. We had studied the Working Paper for the 8th Plenary Assembly, sent out by the FABC, and had prepared country-specific reports on the challenges faced by families in our respective countries.
6. Over the four days of the Forum, we discussed and prayed together, sharing our country reports and our views on the Working Paper. We also looked at the pastorally significant history of FABC and its various plenary assemblies. And we searched for an Asian vision of the family, based on a social and theological analysis, and the responses that the situation of the family in Asia demands of the Catholic Church in Asia, laity, clergy, religious and the hierarchy included. In our search, we were accompanied by theologians and experts, both lay and religious.
7. We specifically reviewed the Final Statement of 7th the Plenary Assembly of FABC at Samphran, Thailand, 2000, “A Renewed Church in Asia: A Mission of Love and Service”. And we were happy to note the contribution of Pax Romana-ICMICA on “the serious and faith-inspired involvement of professionals in public life”, and social advocacy “as a powerful method and means to respond to the issues and challenges” that surfaced at the 7th Plenary Assembly.
8. Based on our reflections, we are presenting the following points before everyone participating at the forthcoming 8th FABC Plenary Assembly on Family, in the hope that the Assembly would prove to be an important point of departure, for all the families of Asia, towards a more relevant pastoral response in the years to come. We sincerely hope that our reflections would be of help to the participants of the Assembly, towards developing a common pastoral agenda on family which are relevant and responsive to the challenges faced and experienced by lay people
Review of the Working Document on Family
New Vision and Paradigm on Family
9. We found that the Working Paper on family for the forthcoming plenary assembly was not inspiring enough to challenge the realities of Asia lived and experienced by the most families. Our reflection shows that it is not inspired by most of the original perspectives of the FABC itself. The Working Document has taken little into consideration the key dimensions of emerging Asia which seriously impact families.
10. The Working Paper’s vision of the family is too passive and condescending. As “Lumen Gentium” of Vatican Council II declared (LG 11), marriage is an “ordo” in the church, as much as priesthood, constituting in its own way the ministry of engagement as a community of love and human intimacy. Rather than merely a receptacle, the family can be understood as a concrete actualization of the one Reign of God, in which various stages of life express their faith responses. All approaches that tend to picture family life as inferior to religious or priestly life need to be resisted and avoided. We have to remember that God works in and through the ordinary experiences and situations of life. The way couples and families relate to one another, the way they budget and spend their money, the decisions they make regarding work and leisure, the way they educate their children are all expressions of their faith or lack of it.
11. If the family is truly Church as Vatican Council II depicted, then there is a need for a shift in our pastoral paradigm. We are so used to regarding married couples and families as objects or recipients of church ministry and pastoral care that the usual dynamics between pastors and the faithful tend to be for the pastor to demand that the latter be actively involved in the parish or the diocese. The shift that needs to take place is precisely to move from the question, “How can we make families participate actively in the parish or diocese?” to “What can our pastors do to strengthen the Church that is already established and existing in the family and home?” Families are potential springboards for ministry in the wider world and active apostles in society with a specific ministry of their own. The heart of the church should be and is the family rather than the parish.
12. The approach of the Working paper on sexuality smirks of antiquated Augustinian perceptions of dualism, demeaning the body, sex and all matters of material life. Sexuality, which is central to marriage as well as the emergence of alternative forms of marriages requires a new pastoral paradigm that would proclaim human sexuality as a sacramental gift from God. Such a theological and pastoral vision needs to be evolved from the positive experiences of married couples, in interaction with the Gospel and lived faith experiences. Such a search by laity, helped by their pastors would truly result in a “New Vision and Mission of Family in Asia”.
13. For a document of the Asian church, which has travelled a long way along the journey of inter-religious dialogue searching for answers in close collaboration with other religions of Asia, the Working Paper is indeed very limited and restricting. Except for the Philippines and East Timor, most of the Asian families are from Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic as well as indigenous religions and cultures. These cultures that govern the majority of Asian families and vastly define the milieu in which minority Christian families live, have very liberative and integrated perspectives on family and marriage as well. The Working document suffers in quality and freshness, for having ignored such vital inputs from other religions.
Key Concerns and Issues on the Family in Asia
14. Our own analysis of the situation of families in our respective countries reveals that the Working Paper has neglected some of the key socio-political and cultural issues that impact the Asian family and people’s lives in a crucial way. Among them are the following:
Issues That Need More Attention.
· Globalisation and Family: globalisation is a complex process of inclusion and exclusion, empowering and disempowering, with its positive and negative effects, which can be neither underestimated nor simplified. Being a multi-faceted process, globalisation has a powerful ideological dimension with its own norms, claims, beliefs and narratives, thereby orienting and organizing families globally. Any contestation of globalisation should integrate ethical, intellectual and social action components. Such a discourse would make much sense to the family in Asia, when linked to theological, pastoral and spiritual dimensions. While globalisation is publicized as a social process of interconnectedness, families are getting disconnected at an alarming rate around differences and uncertainties. These uncertainties do aggravate poverty and inequality. Hence the processes contributing to such disconnections, as well as the imbalances, have to be challenged at the ethical and political levels, while devising pastoral strategies for the family in Asia .
The challenges encountered by families in Asia under the overarching phenomenon of globalization need deeper socio-cultural analysis and a new spirituality and pastoral approach. Quality of family life that is affected due to a culture of materialism and cut-throat competition forces many parents today to regard their role as mere providers for their children, yielding to immediate gratification of all their demands, and in the process, both parents and children are reduced to willing allies and victims to the market and all that it provides. Globalisation, as it impacts Asian families raises fundamental questions to our pastoral practices and ways of being Church in Asia. Major shifts in family relationships and dynamics call for a more in-depth exploration of ethical and moral frameworks enhancing the spirituality of the family.
· Poverty : The centrality of poverty eradication was well described in the Working Paper. However, the phenomenon of increasing poverty as well as new forms of poverty, contributing towards both the informal economy and the illegal economy, needs to be analysed structurally, going beyond descriptive approaches. Specifically the systematic and consistent patterns of dispossession of land and resources, including water and mineral wealth experienced by the rural and indigenous peoples. Identification of the key actors behind such massive forms of dispossession which aggravates poverty would enhance a better understanding of “structure of evil” behind the present form of economic globalisation .
· Discrimination : Frequently, the local churches in Asia have been confronted with and have responded to all forms of discriminations based on race, sex, descent, work, caste, status and political opinion. Such forms of discrimination have affected families and communities regarding their rightful place in the Church. Particularly, the dalits and the indigenous peoples in many countries in Asia have been consistently and systematically discriminated against. We are deeply pained by the fact that our churches in Asia both local and regional levels, remain fractured families with strong elements of racism, casteism and xenophobia. Urgent attention is needed to reverse such policies and practices so that fractured families are genuinely situated within the church. And the social and pastoral dimensions of family members involved in the struggle for justice, peace, integrity of creation and human rights and the tensions that such commitment brings both to the family itself and to the wider Christian community need urgent pastoral attention.
· Patriarchy : Patriarchical perspectives and relations that govern most our Asian families have been strengthened by the sad prevalence of such patriarchical tendencies and mindsets within our churches too, affecting our ministries and pastoral life. The recommendations made at the BILA (Bishops’ Institute on Lay Apostolate) III under the theme “Women’s God Experiences Rooted in Life” held in Hua Hin, Thailand in October 2001 need to be implemented as a matter of priority such as theological formation for lay women leaders, gender sensitivity program for the Church leadership, in particular seminary formation, more participation of women in the decision-making process in the Church, etc.
People Who Need More Care
· Religious Minorities : A striking feature in the countries of Asia is the existence of religious minorities who suffer acute suppressions at the political, economic, social and cultural levels. In some countries their relationship with the State are tenuous, affecting their political rights, the right to work, access to justice and other related matters. In a number of instances during recent years, there have been explicit violations of their rights including killing, rape, destruction of property, internal displacement with much suffering and pain. Frequently, the governing arms of the State, including the administration of justice have been delayed. Such events have jeopardized the social peace with growing intolerance, discrimination and xenophobic trends. It has gravely aggravated the daily lives and livelihood of minority families. Many of these conflicts continue to persist without adequate mediation.
· Migrant and Refugee Families : Widespread migration that often destroys the fabric of our families, the weakening of family relations and the neglect of women and children. Migrants are mostly victims of prejudice, xenophobia and intolerance and are greatly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Inadequate pay and sub-human living conditions coupled with dehumanising jobs make the migrants victims of a vicious cycle of looking for economic wellbeing and getting caught in the web of exploitation. Refugee and internally displaced families, who are forced to leave their countries and homes and live a life of constant insecurity and an uncertain future, too, are numerous in Asia and need our special pastoral care and concern.
· Women and Children in Trafficking, linked to such migration and export of domestic workers has added to the vulnerability of women to exploitation and problems such as HIV-AIDS. Sexual trafficking of women and children demands urgent attention.
· Violence against Women and Children within families, often a system passed down from family to family and impacting several generations unless recognized and attended to in its incipient stages characterise many of our Asian families. Violence, ever present in our media and computer world permeates the life of the family in subtle and direct ways, ranging from physical battering and sexual violence on women and children. Such trends bring about negative behaviour patterns within the family such as intolerance leading to non-acceptance and even hatred, which are detrimental to the experiencing of family life as enabling and salvific.
· People living with HIV/AIDS : Asia has the largest number of people affected with HIV/AIDS, next only to Africa. Having reached pandemic proportions, families are being torn apart as victims succumb to this infection; spouses are left single and children are orphaned at very tender ages. While institutions have been established to take care of the physical needs of these patients, more needs to be done on the preventive and pastoral side to respond meaningfully to this emergency. In Asia we still live in the state of ‘denial’ as far as AIDS is concerned. HIV-positive people face stigmatization and discrimination in their own communities and families
· Youth : Our youth, much neglected and silenced, have not been recognized as the adults and parents of families in the future, with all their potentialities as partners and collaborators. The weakening of the family, coupled with reduced parental influences on the youth or excessive financial demands, often results in much deviations among the youth that demand sympathetic pastoral care.
· Sexual Minorities : Our pastoral response to the Asian family needs to be sufficiently open and sympathetic to sexual minorities and persons of alternate sexual orientations and to their families. Men and women created in the image of God bear no barriers. Everyone should feel accepted – at home – in the Church.
30 Years of FABC – “New Way of Being Church in Asia”
15. From the input and discussion on the history, foundation, context and theology of the FABC during the Forum, we learnt that the more than three decades of the history of the FABC have truly been a sign of hope for the laity of Asia and all the people of God. The articulation of the “Triple Dialogue” – dialogue with cultures, religions and the poor of Asia – as “the new way of being Church in Asia”, stress on inculturation as both evangelizing a well as being evangelized by the local cultures of Asia, the emphasis on Inter-religious dialogue as an expression of the common search for truth, the evolution of an inductive form of theology, based not on abstract principles, but on the lived experiences of local communities – all these and much more have filled our hearts with a great sense of joy and of being relevant amidst the complex realities of Asia as well as in our daily lives.
16. As members of the Asian Church and as families, we critically yet constructively looked at the achievements of FABC over the decades in order to find ways and means for us to contribute to making its vision a reality at the beginning of the 21st century. The following, among many others, is a summary of some highlighted points by participants during the Forum.
① The FABC has great potential and is a useful instrument to create the vision of an Asian Church with a sense of communion and solidarity among Catholics in Asia most of whom are in minority situation. She has indeed provided many lay movements with the tool for reading the signs of the time as well as a sense of directions in their action and reflection.
② The FABC has produced many documents which beautifully articulate a vision of a “New Way of Being Church in Asia” through its triple dialogue but few adequate mechanisms for implementation have been put in place thus increasingly resulting in a widening gap between vision and reality. The FABC is challenged to look beyond its present structure as an association of bishops’ conferences, in order to live fully the vision of the Assembly of the People of God in Asia.
③ To make the FABC vision a reality, collective leadership among new generation of bishops needs to emerge in order to continue to shape the vision and mission of FABC in accordance with the changing reality in Asia. For this, it would be desirable if lay social movements can be more encouraged to contribute to the pastoral agenda setting and implementation process within FABC structures.
④ The FABC needs to address the socio-cultural, particularly linguistic diversity of the various national bishops’ conferences overcoming the passivity of some to be a common house for all bishops and bishops’ conferences.
⑤ More conscious efforts at the Plenary Assembly need to be made to read the signs of the times critically (social analysis), and to assess the achievements and failures of the work of FABC - each bishops’ conference, FABC Offices and FABC as a whole in accordance with the recommendations of previous plenary assemblies. In this way, the FABC can be made more responsive and relevant to the vision and mission she has shaped over the decades.
⑥ The FABC approaches to many socio-pastoral issues need to be looked at critically and practically in the context of accelerating pace of economic globalization such as bi-lateral, regional and inter-regional free trade agreements. The FABC, as an integral part of networked global governance, is challenged to promote more collaboration with relevant international organizations and civil society organizations in the region in a spirit of partnership and shared responsibilities.
17. As we approach the 8th FABC Plenary Assembly on family, we see, on the one hand, God’s call to the families in Asia to pursue a culture of life and on the other hand, a call to the Church to care specially for those families who are vulnerable to a culture of death. And we sincerely and humbly hope to respond to this call through our lived faith experiences in our families, our church communities and in wider society.
To All Bishops and Participants of 8th Plenary Assembly of FABC
① We humbly pray that the FABC ensure that the coming Plenary Assembly would produce a renewed vision of the Asian family toward a culture of life which corresponds to the hopes and aspirations of our families, leading to a coherent and consistent pastoral agenda for the family in Asia.
② We plead that the participants at the Assembly, especially the bishops, make more conscious efforts to remain faithful to the original inspirations, historical insights and pastoral commitments of FABC to the people of God in Asia by developing effective pastoral agenda with its implementation mechanisms at local, national and regional level.
③ We specifically plead that the triple dialogue of FABC gets extended to a renewed dialogue with our families, so that in collaboration with all the spiritual and material expertise and competences of our laity, FABC can confidently enhance ongoing contextual theological reflections with families, facing contemporary challenges. Towards this goal, even now at this late hour, we plead for greater participation of laity and married couples at the forthcoming Plenary Assembly on Family.
④ We suggest that the FABC establish a task force consisting primarily of married laity and lay theologians who would work together with relevant FABC Offices to outline a contextual theology of the family in time for the next FABC General Assembly in 2008. This theological and pastoral reflection would grow from the lived experience of marriage and family in Asia
⑤ We suggest that the Commissions on Family in our dioceses, be enabled to re-orient themselves, and be strengthened with qualified counselors and updated marriage preparatory courses. These commissions should creatively explore the experience of marriage theologically, as well as interact closely and network with other Commissions such as Justice and Peace, Migrants and Youth as well as civil society organizations functioning to the integral liberation of our families.
⑥ We invite the bishops and participants of the Plenary Assembly to delve into the phenomenon of migration, trafficking of women and children and refugees in Asia which impact crucially on the family in Asia from a human rights perspective and to come up with strong statements against all forms of violence on women and children within our families and outside, as contrary to the call of the Church for solidarity and equality.
⑦ We invite the FABC and the churches in Asia, specifically, to play key advocacy roles in getting our Asian governments accountable to what they have pledged at the international meetings such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and various human right treaties affecting the family in Asia including the Convention on the Right of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
To All Families and Lay Movements in Asia
① We invite all families and lay movements in Asia to come together towards a deeper and theological understanding of communion among Christian families, communities, organizations and “civil society” in the Church in pursuit of “new way of being Church” through the “triple dialogue” in Asia.
② We invite all families and lay movements in Asia to work together in social advocacy as a way of Christian witness to the Gospel to respond to the calls of the FABC’s pastoral agenda in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation in partnership with international organizations and civil society organizations in Asia.
③ We particularly invite all families and lay movements in Asia to be more alert to emerging public spheres, such as the Asian Civil Social Forum (ACSF), the Asian Social Forum (ASF) and the World Social Forum (WSF), in which families and religious from specific groups (tribals and dalits) are already involved and to join in different forms of expression on issues that affect families, especially to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
④ We invite all families and lay movements in Asia to be more active in making the vision of Asian Church more inclusive and rooted on the ground at all levels – home, community, parish, diocese, nation and global community in partnership with religious and clergy as well as with FABC Offices.
Pax Romana ICMICA, C.P. 315, CH-1211, Geneva 24, Switzerland
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