Hundreds of boys and girls, mostly of immigrant background from India and the Philippines met in Oman and the Emirates. They asked the apostolic vicar many questions anonymously. Mgr Hinder noted a great desire to interact with him. Social and new media are seen as a new "tool for evangelisation".
Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) – The Apostolic Vicarage of Southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen) recently sponsored a number of youth gatherings. The latest were the fifth annual Teens United for Faith retreats (TUFF) for youth aged 14 to 18 from the region.
The first meeting was held on 3-4 November at the Holy Spirit Church, Ghallah, Muscat (Oman) The second took place on 10-11 November at the St Anthony of Padua Church, Ras Al Khaimah (United Arab Emirates).
Speaking to AsiaNews about the meetings, Mgr Paul Hinder could not but be very happy about the enthusiasm and involvement shown by the hundreds of participants.
The latter discussed a range of topics, like youth networking across the vast region to share experiences of faith and talk about the difficulties of everyday life, addressing the issue of faith and belief in this day and age, interacting “with other religions”, and engaging in “dialogue” from the perspective of “one’s own Christian identity”.
The formal agenda included how to be Catholic, life in Christ, morality, and apologetics. Prayers were a key aspect of the meetings, with the mind on the next Synod of Bishops slated for October 2018, which Pope Francis dedicated to "Young people, the faith and vocational discernment ".
In the first meeting, more than 300 young people came all of Oman’s parishes. In the UAE, participants numbered “more than 900”. Most of these kids are "children of immigrant families, mostly Indian and Filipinos." Other young people came " from Arabic-speaking countries, even though they constitute a tiny minority".
During the retreats, which the apostolic nuncio attended, participants were able to raise some questions anonymously (written on notes placed in a basket) on major topics. “They asked me about sexuality, vocations, the problems of the local Church and in the world,” he said.
"Some questions were deep; some were more superficial; others were about me, my personality, my encounter with the faith, my vocation.” In some cases, the questions turned out to be a starting point for a discussion among those present. There were hundreds of questions and "it was not possible to answer everyone".
This led Mgr Hinder to realise that "one of the greatest wishes of young people is to keep in touch with their bishop," interact with him, and not be afraid to "ask questions whilst I sit among them.”
This back and forth was "very much appreciated". It allowed for further discussion of other "topics close to their heart, like new media, the internet, social media and their importance not only as amusement but also as a tool for evangelisation as they suggested themselves."
The two aforementioned retreats were not the only events organised by the Church in Arabia. On 17 November, the Young Adult Ministry for 18- to 28-year-olds held a seminar in a number of parishes. “This too was done with the Synod in mind”, Mgr Hinder said.
What the kids want to do is "to network among young people in each emirate and throughout the whole Vicariate,” Mgr Hinder explained. They want “to support each other on their journey of faith. They also want to understand better the reasons that may push a young person today to believe and bear witness to the encounter with young people of other religions."
The apostolic Vicarage of South Arabia includes the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen, for a total surface of about 929,000 square kilometres. Out of a combined population of 39.5 million people, about 992,000 are Catholics according to Vicariate data.
The region has 15 parishes with 13 diocesan priests, plus 49 priests from religious institutes and a permanent deacon who lives in the diocese. There are also three lay brothers, as well as 64 nuns in total. (DS)