Tashkent (AsiaNews) Two young Uzbeks are among the many young people from around the world attending World Youth Day. This may seem little but it is significant for a country that has only 4,000 Catholics and is experiencing a major economic crisis. For others who could not go to the WYD, the Church has organised a 12-day summer camp called "The oasis of the children of God".
Located in a mountainous area near the Uzbek capital, the camp has attracted more than 30 people, ages ranging from 14 to 29.
This is the second camp of its kind that the Church has organised and is open to Catholics and to those who will soon be baptised.
The daily activity roster includes mass, a "liturgical school" that explains the meaning of the mass and the Gospels as well as moments of meditation on the mystery of the Rosary. Outings in the mountains, musical lessons and plays are also on the menu.
Fr Andrzei Brzezinski, OFM, one of the camp's organisers, told AsiaNews that "the camp's most important goal was to have closer contacts with young Catholics".
For the clergyman, it was crucial to have young people from different parts of the country meet and be able to come face to face and understand from each other their respective realities.
Participants were especially pleased to meet Mgr Jerzy Maculewicz, who was ordained the country's first bishop in late July.
"Young people have a great opportunity to pray and eat together as well as partaking in the same leisure activities," the newly appointed bishop said. "For me the most precious thing was instead the simple human contact with these young Catholics and with those who are soon going to become Catholic".
The experience was something "wonderful" to the participants as well. Andrew Komissarov, 18, from the diocese of Tashkent, spoke to AsiaNews and said: "I really liked being here. Everythingprayers, the various activities, the leisure timewere very well organised. The fact that each day was dedicated to one of the mysteries of the Rosary helped me better understand them".
"Being far from home among people with so different personalities has also helped me better understand myself and my faith," he added.
Currently, there are five parishes in Uzbekistan: Tashkent, Bukhara, Ferghana, Samarkand and Urgench.
Out of a population of some 26.9 million people, 88 per cent is Muslim (mostly Sunni), 9 per cent is Russian Orthodox and the remaining 3 per cent belong to other religions.