Two Asians speak at the Synod, giving voice to basic communities and those who are silent

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Asia’s sufferings but also its gifts echoed yesterday at the Synod Assembly in the Vatican through the words of Vanessa Cheng, a lay woman from Hong Kong and a member of the Focolare movement, and Fr Clarence Devadass, a priest from Malaysia, during the public session that opened the days dedicated to the examination of the second part of the Instrumentum Laboris.

“Hong Kong society has been torn apart after two years of social unrest, the synodal process has helped the Church to restart. ‘Walking together" bears the fruit of healing’,” said Vanessa Cheng, citing the continent-level report.

In her description of the synodal path in Asia, she cited the image of "taking off our shoes", which is deeply connected to the sense of the sacred that inhabits local communities.

Although Christians are but a "small flock": 6.5 per cent, with Catholics just above 3 per cent, they stand side by side with other great religions born in the continent, as well as all those who have no faith of their own and await the Good News. This is why listening rooted in respect is so central.

For Vanessa Cheng, “we must also be aware that many Asian cultures do not favour outspokenness for a variety of reasons, such as the fear of making mistakes and losing ‘face’, of not being accepted by one's social circle, of being identified as problematic, disrespectful and challenging in front of all kinds of authority, and so on.

“As a result, many faithful may tend to remain silent instead of voicing their own views and concerns. Therefore, we need to pay even more attention to those who are silent for some reason. It is very important that the experiences of joy and wounds and the issues raised in the Report should be taken seriously.”

For his part, Fr Devadass notes, “Some may see us as small and insignificant, but we consider ourselves as unique and valuable parts of not just the church but also building and transforming human society.”

“In many parts of Asia, the Church takes the lead in the service of integral human development and the common good, especially in the fields of education, healthcare, and reaching out to the poor and marginalised groups in society beyond the boundaries of our churches.”

Dialogue is crucial. “We share many experiences of fruitful engagement with other Christians, persons of other religions and traditions, including indigenous spiritualities, and with the society as a whole.”

“Some expressed reservations about these dialogues for various reasons, including mistrust and suspicion regarding the motives for such dialogues. Nevertheless, for unity in humanity, Churches in many parts of Asia play a pivotal role in building bridges for peace, harmony, reconciliation, and even justice and freedom.”

Lastly, Fr Devadass brought to the attention of the Synod the experiences of basic ecclesial communities (BECs) present in many Churches in Asia.

Such groups “bring about not only spiritual transformation but also social transformation. They have been the beacons of hope for gospel witnessing in society” and have “become a leaven of Christian life, care for the poor, and commit to transforming society through a lived gospel experience.”

Ultimately, “They are our visible signs of a synodal Church that is relevant and, at the same time, relational.”