09/22/2017, 16.15
TURKMENISTAN
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For priest in Ashgabat, the Asian Games are an opportunity for prayer and meeting between peoples

Athletes have been provided with prayer space, for Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and other religions. Turkmenistan "chose the path of positive neutrality.”

Ashgabat (AsiaNews) – The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that began in Ashgabat on 17 September is not only about sports and showmanship, but also about prayer and friendship between peoples and religions, said Fr Andrzej Madej, a Polish Missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Superior of the Missio sui Iuris in Turkmenistan, speaking to AsiaNews.

"In the Olympic Village, organisers have provided a space where athletes can pray and meet with clergy," Fr Madej said. "There are halls for Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and one for other religions."

The priest, who represents the Catholic Church at the event, is present for several hours a day during the week. "People come to talk to me, to pray. I am very happy to celebrate the Eucharist in the Olympic Village with Catholic athletes from the Philippines. We have already celebrated it twice, and we will do it again next Sunday. "

The Catholic community in Turkmenistan is a small with about 200 members.

For Fr Madej, the sporting event is a sign that Turkmenistan "has chosen the path of positive neutrality, seeking to ensure political stability in Central Asia, promoting peaceful initiatives and enhancing understanding with neighbouring countries. The 2017 Ashgabat Games reflect this perspective: peaceful coexistence between nations, cultures and religions. "

"Sport does not only have a cultural dimension,” the priest said. “It is much more: it creates a space for meetings, friendships, to strengthen solidarity among people . . . Humanistic motives are the light of sporting activities. The representatives of more than 60 nations are currently in Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabat. Ashgabat means 'the city of love'."

"The Romans used to say ‘mens sana in corpore sano’(a healthy mind in a healthy body),” Fr Madej noted. “I'm convinced that our souls have even more influence on our bodies! "

Meanwhile, Turkmenistan continues to lead the medal count with 59 gold medals, 43 silver, and 51 bronze medals; followed by Iran, which won three golds yesterday in Muay Thai for a total of 16, with Thailand coming in third spot with 13.

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