A letter from the Bishop Schmitthaeusler announces a three-year plan for the family. Consumerism, poverty, migration and interfaith marriage are the challenges to the proposal of the Catholic family.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Mgr Olivier Schmitthaeusler, apostolic vicar of Phnom Penh, released a letter on Epiphany, laying out a three-year plan for the family aimed at finding a model to propose to Cambodia, a country whose culture was destroyed by civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime, leaving young people without values based on religion and tradition but rather informed by consumerism and selfishness and a quest for personal happiness.
“God,” says the letter, “came in our humanity” on the night of Christmas to call upon us to "become builders of a Culture of Mercy … a world revolution! Not the revolution of Trump or Putin or of Duarte in the Philippines or of our leaders here!”
“The revolution of mercy [. . .] started on this holy Christmas night with you and me when the shepherds and the Magi adored Jesus together!”
For the apostolic vicar, the three-year journey devoted to the family requires an analysis of the current situation of the Cambodian family and the problems that it encounters, starting with the quest for a model.
“Today, 60% of the population is under 22 years of age. [. . .] There was a break in the transmission of traditional values, and this new generation is now finding a family model often based on television series from South Korea and Thailand or on social media, a model of a family in a society of consumers, with one child, selfish, withdrawn, and seeking its own happiness.”
"How can we give the young people a good family model that they might follow?" is the first question asked in the letter. In a society that knows "the scourge of poverty," which is the "root of violence, drugs, alcohol and gambling", we must feed the poor.
This leads to the second question: "How to give stability to the poorest families to help them to be fully integrated into society?"
The third problem is emigration that has resulted in 10 per cent of the population working abroad. "The parents visit their children once a year. How can these ‘children without parents' be good parents in the future? [. . .] How can the Church be father and mother for them also?’"
Mixed marriage is another issue. Some 90 per cent of Khmer Catholics are newly baptised and most are likely to marry a Buddhist. "This means that they come from a Buddhist family and return to a Buddhist family!"
Marriage preparation is thus an opportunity and a challenge to teach new couples to adhere to a Christian vision and educate their children in the Catholic faith. Accompanying new couples is for the Church a great challenge.
Finally, “During these years 2017-2019, I would like to call our Church to become always more and more:
“A Church that forms, follows and guides adolescents and youth at the beginning of their affective life.
“A Church which gives witness of mercy and tenderness of God, a Church that truly is Mother and Father.
“A Church which listens and sees the needs of families, hears their cries with compassion and empathy to illuminate their way of life and their consciousness, especially in a Buddhist context.
“A Church which calls all Catholic families to show mercy, dialogue, solidarity and peace for all families, first place in Cambodia but also in all of Asia.”