12/17/2013, 00.00
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Advent in Bangkok: prayer and sharing, stronger than the political and social tensions

In a period characterized by a major tension between the government and opposition, the Thai Catholic community "is preparing for Christmas with great enthusiasm”. Fr. Pelosin , PIME missionary , explains, in a situation of uncertainty , the desire to "get closer to God” grows. A desire that touches even the Buddhists , who will take part in the celebrations on Christmas Eve.

Bangkok (AsiaNews ) - In a period marked by major social, economic and political tensions coupled with a crisis of traditional institutions, the Thai Catholic community "is preparing for Christmas with great enthusiasm". This is what Fr. Adriano Pelosin , a priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME ) , a native of Loreggia , in the province of Padua , in 35 years in Thailand tells AsiaNews. He does not rule out that the situation of uncertainty and tension, a direct result of the current instability, can somehow help people "to draw close " to God. "This fear - he adds - urges people to come together in an atmosphere of peace and serenity to share with others in meetings and with prayer. "

Today, prayer and meetings represent "a hope and a balm" for the entire population, without distinction "between yellow and red shirts", between anti-government protesters and supporters of the executive. "Beyond the opposition - said Fr . Pelosin - it is essential that there is the unity at the base level. Yellow and red shirts want to celebrate Christmas together , and we feel we can give them a more comprehensive , all-encompassing response; without entering into the political issues , but taking into consideration 'another' dimension of life and, consequently , of the Christian message".

The missionary from Veneto has spent a long time of his mission in the slums on the outskirts of Bangkok, saving children from sexual violence, keeping them away from the traffickers and organized crime. Guaranteeing them at the same time, education and facilitating social integration and employment. Since May of this year the archbishop of Bangkok Msgr. Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij , has entrusted the care of the parish of Saint Mark in Pathumthani , in the capital.

Yesterday the novena of preparation for Christmas began, continues Fr. Pelosin, with moments of common prayer "that will continue all evening" until the celebration. On December 21 the community confessions will take place, on the  24 the solemn celebration "with entertainment until midnight ." The PIME missionary also confirms that "there are also many Buddhists who will take part in the Christmas celebrations" because they represent "a celebration for the entire community ." Volunteers prepare food for all, an event that will be repeated on the 30th "with slum dwellers" and 31 December , the last day of the year, "when we will have a great lunch for all the parishioners."

On Christmas Day, Catholics bring food and other basic necessities to the church, says the PIME priest, which will be delivered to the altar during the offertory procession. The gifts of food (rice, fish paste ) will be distributed to the poor and needy on the 30th , as a "gesture of love and testimony " that Christ was born for them too.

Among the many initiatives for Advent, Fr. Pelosin recounts the moments of encounter and prayer each weekend, Friday and Saturday nights. In turn, groups of parishioners visit families in the community. "On the 15th - the priest continues - 120 people visited their friends in faith. An extraordinary event, a source of great joy, peace and serenity. There were red shirts and yellow shirts , but no talk of politics". What really mattered, he concluded, was " sharing a unique moment of prayer."

Catholics are a very small percentage in Thailand, just 0.1 % out a total population of 66.7 million inhabitants.  The majority practice Buddhism, with an Islamic enclave in the south of the country, however , the Christian community is full of vitality and initiative especially in the social and education sector. (DS)


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