Malaysian Josephine Magdalyn Tan shares her experience at the recent FABC50

The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) 50 General Conference ran from October 12 to 30.

Nov 04, 2022

Young people are the “now” of God. Left to Right: Josephine Magdalyn Tan, Ashita Jimmy and Antony Judy (India)

BANGKOK: The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) 50 General Conference ran from October 12 to 30. Themed FABC50: Journeying together as peoples of Asia, delegates and participants consisting of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of FABC, and to reaffirm, renew and revitalise the Church in Asia, guided by Matthew 2:1-12, “...and they went a different way.”

It was a great opportunity to be part of the conference as a young person and to represent Malaysia.

Encountering the Churches in Asia
The first week of the conference focused on visiting Asia, with presentations by the Bishops’ Conferences from 29 Asian countries. It was interesting to learn about the beauty and strengths of the Church in each country, as well as how they overcome challenges. As Catholics are the minority in Asia (except in the Philippines and Timor Leste), the presence of the Church during the pandemic, its charity works, and education centres run by Catholics made us more visible among the general community. The Church in Asia came together in solidarity to support each other during the crisis, by providing funds for vaccines and face masks, and by praying for the people suffering in civil wars and political distress.

In addition to the presentations, the conversation with bishops at the “Coffee Table” widened my knowledge of how the conferences/ dioceses worked with various groups (NGOs, government) in addressing current issues.

The Morning prayers conducted by each country showcased how the Church in Asia is unique and rich in its languages.

In the virtual “Talk Show in Asia”, 16 panellists from 13 countries of Asia representing various sectors shared on the laity, religious men and women, inter-faith marriage, family, single parenting, politics, ageing, the differently abled, women, indigenous people, victims of climate change, the aftermath of terror attacks, and business relations. They gave an overview of their responsibilities in the local Church and their communities.

Maurice, a Catholic student from Taiwan, spoke about the importance of authentic friendship between priests/Church leaders and young people. Elenor, from single parenthood, shed light on her struggles as a single mother caring for her daughters, and the discrimination she encounters in Church. It was amazing to witness the cardinals and bishops affirm the sharing.

Encounter the emerging realities
The second week focused on emerging realities and concerns such as the environment, youth, women, family, migrants, refugees, interreligious dialogue, and digital evangelisation. Presenters, and experts in their field, shared insights and practical tools on how to address the needs of the community. Reflections of the Papal documents such as Laudato Si’, Fratelli Tutti, Amoris Laetitia, and Praedicate Evangelium reminded us of the Church’s role and its people in addressing these realities. I met a climate activist named Ridhima Pandey, who inspite of her youth, spoke about the need to care for the environment for the next generation. She was part of the movie: The Letter - A Message for Our Earth with Pope Francis and other activists. The film is based on the encyclical Laudato Si’ and a collection of activists’ voices. Her courage influenced me and the rest to care more about the environment. She said her encounter with the Holy Father and other activists felt like it happened yesterday, and she is still in contact with them.

As for the youth, there were only three out of the 226 delegates - Antony Judy (India), Ashita Jimmy (India), and I. Addressing the cardinal and bishops, each of us raised the need to give young people the opportunity to have more significant roles in the Church, and echoing Pope Francis’ reminder that the young people are the “now” of God.

We also virtually visited parishes in Asia. My group visited parishes in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. We witnessed the inculturation of Javanese culture in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, Ganjuran, Indonesia, in their architecture and parish ministry. The majority of the parishioners from St James Church, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, are fishermen and the Church is always providing for the needs need of the people, especially during civil wars. The Church is also educating young people to avoid drugs, and encouraging them to get an education.

Emerging the new pathways
In the third and final week of the conference, we reflected on our leadership roles and the structure. We were assigned to groups with a theme, where we had to review and discover the best from each theme, lay out the dream, and take concrete steps to achieve it.

Throughout the conference, I met many amazing labourers in the field in God’s Kingdom, within the Church, and in society. Laudato Si’ Movement, Focolare Movement, Talitha Kum, and Caritas are some of the movements by Catholics that address the realities of the world.

The documents were finalised during the final week. I hope that as we return to our respective countries, the Church of Asia is led by the Holy Spirit to address the signs of times, in coming together in unity and solidarity, despite the differences.

Total Comments:0