Yangon, 26 February 2019, Posted by Joseph Win Hlaing Oo
As Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo, a new president of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences) will give a leadership of FABC from 2019, many people in Myanmar and in Asia are expecting new initiatives and new way of evangelization across the Asian Continent which is actually, the birthplace of Jesus Christ and is the birthplace of all religions in the world too.
No one will deny that FABC is passive and a weak institution in which many departments and secretary generals are also lacking pastoral zeal as well. Therefore Dr. Paul Hawng who is Director of Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum, Joseph Win Hlaing Oo who is a founding rector of Joseph Education Institute (JEI) and Dr. Maung John who is a director of Lay Mission Institute, met the President of FABC, Cardinal Charles Bo at his Yangon residence on 12 February 2019 giving him the below thoughts for revitalizing FABC during his term.
Some 10 years ago Fr. Felix Wilfred had a dialogue with Fr. Michael Amaladoss, a worldly known Asian theologian especially on inculturation, in which the former asked the latter to change the theological term “inculturation” to “intercultural encounter” in theological discourse. It looks a simple asking but implies a lot of social and religio-cultural issues.
As we know the 5th PA of FABC declared SCCs as its official ecclesiology. But it has revealed its limitation to be confined within church wall. The concept of SCCs from South Africa, Lumko Institute to be exact, has indeed failed to adapt to many countries in Asia, the land of diversity, losing its “dynamism from below”, the very spirit of Vatican II. We need to revisit the current SCCs because we should revive such dynamism. We need diverse models of church with neighbors in mind no matter what model it would be. One model could be “Basic Human Communities” (BHCs).
In 80s and 90s BISA, BIRA, BILA, BIMA and other “BIs” have been very active thanks to sincere and capable secretary generals like Fr. Desmond de Sousa from Goa, India who had led OHD at that time of Bishop Labayen supported by, Cardinal Stephan Kim, Cardinal Fumio Hamao, Bishop Bunluen Mansap and many other leaders in the church of Asia. Now is the time that we should revitalize this in a bit more “synodal” way.
Necessary reshuffling should be done and followed by a strategy-building steering meeting with the new and other officials of FABC: Through them it could organize Asian Institute for Social Action (AISA) done in the name of OHD in 70s-90s in a more collaborative manner. It includes not only bishops but priests, Religious and lay pastoral workers. Previously we had BISAs first and then proceeded to AISA and FEISA (Faith Encounters in Social Action) until mid. 90s in order to implement what we got from BISAs on the level of all the dioceses in Asia. But this time we could explore the spirit of “Synodality” or “walking together” in an Asian way. Why “Asian” here? What about it? By Asian way we meant a community-centered approach in which communion could and should be realized. That is more “synodal”, so churches from other continents would follow such Asian model. That is especially relevant when it comes to the “Kingdom approach” of FABC theology and its methodology specifically toward to “triple dialogue” with the poor, diverse cultures and great religious traditions in Asia.
The thing here is not the number of participants in the on-going program but those who want to follow “journeying together” on the diocesan level could be invited regardless how many participants would join. It is because they will be the seed or liven to yield multifold cultivation in the diocesan and national levels eventually.
Written by Dr. Paul Hwang
Director of Asian Lay Leaders (ALL) Forum, Seoul, The Republic of Korea.