07/11/2018, 10.25
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Pime Superior in Japan: Evangelizing is teaching an 'evangelical' humanity, in relationship with ourselves and the world

by Maddalena Tomassini

Japan is an "apparently perfect society" that crushes individuals. To evangelize is to form an encounter with Jesus, in one's society. The "unsurpassable barrier" of death. A workshop to help young people rediscover the relationship with themselves, others and the absolute.

Rome (AsiaNews) - In Japan, an "apparently perfect society, but which crushes individuals", evangelization is not about leading to baptism, but to teach an evangelical humanity and a "human" way of living a relationship with oneself, with the others and with the absolute. This is the testimony of Fr. Andrea Lembo, regional superior of PIME in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Born shinto, marry as a Christian and die a Buddhist

Japan is a "non-denominational" country, where rituality is part of everyday life, witnessed by the famous Japanese kindness and education, and in which the form predominates. "There is a saying: in Japan we are born shinto, we marry as Christians and die Buddhists", comments Fr. Lembo. Here lies the anthropological crisis of Japan: a society that is apparently perfect, but which crushes individuals. For this reason, evangelizing does not translate into the number of baptized, but into "the formation of an evangelical humanity, to the encounter with the person of Jesus who makes you more human", which makes you say: to be a Christian is to give life for the other, love the other ".

Working with young people, Fr. Lembo is reluctant to give baptism without a "path of humanization" in which they learn to live in "ways that may seem 'aseptic' of their society". "What you experience, you must transform, first of all in your interiority, intimacy and humanity". It is a necessary anthropological process, in which the Church itself "struggles". A fatigue that is perceived in all aspects of life, even at the end: "It is not uncommon for the Catholic wife to come with her husband, and to say 'father, I would like my husband to be baptized, because otherwise when we die we will be separated' ".

In a parish he was previously involved in, a woman suffered a tragedy. A mother of three children, she lost her eldest, who was unbaptized, aged 20, due to an accident. This pain brought her closer to the Church. Then tragedy hit her family again: three years ago, her 41-year-old son fainted at work: he has an incurable tumor. The woman, shocked by the pain, turned to the missionary. "After the death of the first child - says Fr. Lembo - she had in her heart: 'I will be eternally separated from my son, but I want this one to be with me' ". After three months of coma, the young man died. "The fundamental problem is: making people understand that if God is One, we all die in Christ. This is not to diminish the importance of baptism, but to say that in our faith, our human and earthly bonds are united and will be united to the end, even in the afterlife. I gave the child a baptism, but there was above all a mother's path to understand that the bond she had with her children is a bond that is eternally in God. In a Buddhist world - especially the Japanese one - in which death is this great, unsurpassable barrier it is not easy to help people understand this".

"The difficulty of mission in Japan - continues Fr. Lembo - is that while in other countries this human meaning we manage to convey with the charitable service - I build a well, a hospital - in Japan this 'charity' becomes walking together: I have nothing to give you, but this is a gift 'humanity, something that makes you feel more man, more woman because we have met, that tells you that in the passage in which we felt like brothers in an evangelical sense ". For the superior, this mission now appears to be in crisis. "Perhaps we are not prepared to face secularism, which many define as a 'world without God', I would begin to call it a 'world without a man'. If we recover humanity, we can recover the centrality of God, and this is true for any religion ".

A workshop with young people to rediscover themselves, their relationship with God and with others

To rediscover this evangelical humanity, Fr. Lembo has decided to launch initiatives for young people, including one with his friends Rafaela and Simone, which he began a few weeks ago. The two teach in a new school in Karuizawa, inserted in the World of the united colleges, "a series of international schools that have a new way of teaching, through experiences". In this school there are 200 young people between the ages of 15 and 19. 70% comes from 35 different countries, and the others are Japanese.

In this context, Fr. Lembo and the teachers organized an inter-religious festival, whose focus was to find "a meeting point between" heart "and" body ". Four Japanese non-Christian young people participated in the organization of the program, of which only one could speak English.

The first workshop, "An Encounter with Me", with "the parts of me that I do not like", was held by Yasu, a young sports trainer for people who find it hard to accept their body and character. "Yasu has lived the tragic experience of being 'futoku' - the missionary tells - those kids who do not feel like going to school anymore. He was bullied in the seventh grade, and began to be afraid of others and of himself ". Then, the turning point when he started practicing boxing and found an instructor who taught him the art of "balancing between heart and body". "He never won a match – observed Fr. Lembo - he had about 150, and he lost all 150. But his teacher never gave up. During the workshop, Yasu had the students do some terrifying exercises, but they made it clear how positive intention can overcome the most difficult things. The young people had limits that were both physical and fear: they discovered that they could overcome them ".

The second workshop, "An Encounter with Each other", was held by two young physiotherapists. "We have divided the young people into pairs to make it clear how the other's body can react to your stimuli. The care of the other through the body, the space of the other through my space ".

The third workshop focused on the "An Encounter with the Infinite". Kikuchi, a boy who is approaching the Christian faith and who studies Japanese art and architecture, held it. "We made contact with the kannushi (responsible) of a nearby Shinto temple. Here, the boy explained the temple, and showed how to live it as an experience to be seen, heard, perceived. Shinto is very linked to nature: it is essentially interacting with a sacred space ".

"For me this is evangelization - concludes Fr. Lembo - to connect human experiences, each with their own culture, on fundamental relationships: me with myself, with the infinite, with the other and with nature. There we give that human meaning that makes us grow ".

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