Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - The future good of Asia can be guaranteed if religious freedom and the commitment of Christians in society is affirmed. In any case, despite suffering from persecution and marginalization, Christians are even now able to be signs of humanity full of hope for their continent and the world.
This is just a synthesis of the wealth of ideas and recommendations that emerged from the symposium celebrated two days ago in the Aula Magna of the Pontifical Urbanianum University , on the occasion of the 10 years of the AsiaNews.it website .
The theme , "Ten years of Asia - Ten years of our history", wanted to retrace the steps through which the webpages of AsiaNews has increasingly become "an indispensable source of information about the social, political , economic and religious life in Asia", as pointed out by Card. George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
But above all, the symposium sought to photograph the Asian reality in its developments and its contradictions , trying to glimpse the its future path and reality.
In addition to Card. Pell, the Symposium was attended by speakers the caliber of Archbishop Savio Hon Tai -fai , secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples , Fr . Samir Khalil Samir, an Islamic scholar in Beirut; economist Angelo Caloia , Professor at the Catholic University of Milan and Lumsa . Their interventions were interspersed by the polyphonic choral pieces of the Millennium Ensemble (which groups together Italians , Russians and Kazakhs ) , who sang the Creed of the Byzantine Slavonic liturgy and an "Elegy for martyrs " , composed in memory of the sufferings of Christians in Asia. At the conclusion - a moment of prayer was entrusted to Sister Helen, Missionary of Charity , who spoke of the fruitfulness of the charism of Mother Teresa and her sisters for Asia.
Guests also included representatives of several Asian and European embassies to the Holy See , as well as experts and scholars on Asia. An unexpected and most welcome guest was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples , Card. Fernando Filoni, who in saluting the Assembly , reiterated the importance of Asia , and spoke of his surprise in visiting the vibrant Korean Church, on his recent trip to that country.
In his extensive and deeply documented intervention, Card. Pell highlighted the influence of Asia on Oceania and in particular his country Australia, whose exports of raw materials and food, in large part, goes to Asia and China. The two economies (China and Australia) are so interdependent that " if China sneezes - he said - Australia catches a cold ."
He also revealed how Australia is a country of "refugees" where there is a high rate of immigrants and integration. The Asian Catholics - from the Middle East , the Philippines, Vietnam , India - who have arrived in the great oceanic island are "a source of strength and vitality for the Catholic community ." "The Vietnamese community - he added - is a source of growth in vocations to the priesthood and in 2011 the Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen , who came to Australia as a refugee , became the first Vietnamese bishop of the country."
The Cardinal then outlined the positives and negatives of the Asian continent: economic development based exclusively on a strictly material dimension, the subsequent damage to the ecology, and the growing wealth and the danger of an impending demographic winter , which already touches Russia , Japan, Korea and China. But he also showed how there is "strong, great and inevitable religious impulse in the human heart" in Asia. In this way , in stark opposition to the materialism and secularism brought by globalization , there is a strong religious revival , so that if the present trend continues among Protestants and Catholics, over the next 10-20 years , "China will become the third Christian nation the world after the United States and Brazil. "
In fact, in relation to the great religious question of the Asian continent , Msgr. Savio Hon spoke of the necessary link between contemplation and mission, communion and action required for each missionary activity , even for the work of communication such as AsiaNews . Archbishop Hon , the only Chinese member of the Vatican curia , cited as an example the correspondence between St. Therese of Lisieux and a missionary of the Paris Foreign Missions , Fr. Adolphe Rulland and wished " in its efforts to take part in the mission of the Church AsiaNews is always sustained by the prayer of St. Teresa , in the hope that the news from Asia, good or bad, provide an opportunity for fellowship and contemplation".
Quoting a phrase from Alexander Solzhenitsyn , according to which the forced labour camps have become the new " cloisters " , the director of AsiaNews, Fr . Bernardo Cervellera , wanted to recall the priests , nuns and bishops who suffer persecution and imprisonment, and who even in prison are signs of apostolic fruitfulness, like the Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan , whose cause of beatification has been opened.
The Jesuit Fr . Samir Khalil touched on an issue that has characterized most of the Middle East over the past 10 years: the growth of Islamic fundamentalism that is taking its toll among Christians and among Muslims themsleves. These 10 years have also shown the failure of military operations (Afghanistan , Iraq , Libya, Syria) . The growth of fundamentalism is in part due to the contact with the West often seen as atheistic and immoral, but especially to the cultural, political and religious crisis Islam is suffering in its attempts to deal with modern society . For the great scholar of Islam , it is possible to eradicate fundamentalism if the Muslim world agrees to deal with modernity in a work of discernment of what is good and not good and if it agrees to review the historical elements of the faith , saving the original core and freeing it from the weight of cultural additions that have been made over the centuries. The presence of Christians in the Islamic world is of vital importance, in particular in collaboration with moderate Muslims, to build a society without discrimination , avoiding fundamentalism and secularism .
In his elaborate intervention, Prof. Caloia , explained "Asian economic miracle " , but also showed the need to correct its aim, with policies not only aimed at export but which pay greater attention to the population (education, health , pensions) , walking towards democracy. He pointed out that this more humanistic process of development, needs the testimony and commitment of the third sector , which can correct the one-sidedness of a market and profit to take to heart the many " human needs that are unsatisfied because not remunerated " .
Fr. Cervellera , after an analysis of the economic growth in Asia which is threatening to provoke divisions and conflicts , also showed the strength of growth of the Asian churches , able to "attract" the Asian person which globalization and fundamentalism attempt to render " anonymous " . He recalled the prophecy of John Paul II , which has become the AsiaNews slogan : "Asia , here is our common task for the third millennium."
"After 10 years with the on-line agency - he said - this task ' for the Third Millennium ' is still only at the beginning: Asia is still the continent with the largest number of non-Christians in the world ( about 80 %) , and its becoming a 'center of the world ' , with its greatness and distortions ... makes the witness of Christians even more urgent. We believe that Asia will play a leading role in the destiny of the world and the future of the Church . "
Pope Francis' message to AsiaNews and the desire expressed by him to travel to Asia in the next year , is further confirmation of this.