08/01/2016, 15.12
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The Church in Pakistan must learn from the young people who went to Krakow

by Shafique Khokhar

The youth who travelled to Poland had trouble getting visas. But in the coming days they will return to Pakistan and can be an example for all Catholics. The priest invites the Church leaders to prepare ahead of the next World Youth Day.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - In a country that discriminates and marginalizes minorities, young Pakistani Catholics were eager to participate in the World Youth Day in Krakow, which ended yesterday with a meeting dedicated to the 20 thousand volunteers who took part.

Fr. Bonnie Mendes, a priest of the diocese of Faisalabad and Executive Secretary of the Office for Human Development of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC-OHD) spoke to AsiaNews of the difficulties in organizing the departure of young people, for whom obtaining a travel visa was not as straight forward as in other countries. Although there have been no great preparations and the delegation was not large, "we are ready to receive the minimum benefits that the event will give us."

The priest believes in order to gain the most from such experiences, a well planned preparation is needed. Therefore, he is calling upon the leaders of the Church to immediately plan for the participation in the next World Youth Day to be held in Panama.

You have asked me what I expect to get from the WYD in Krakow Poland. When we lead everyday lives in Pakistan, there are various kinds of challenges; it is hard to focus on any particular goal. It is in that context the Catholic Pakistani Youth applied to go to Poland. Unlike other countries where the Youth do not need visas or if they need visas they are sure they will get them. In our case, till the very last month, the Catholic Youth were not sure whether they could travel or not.

Given the difficult situation in Pakistan, including discrimination, the Catholic Youth were keen to go to Poland but the coordinated planning for WYD was not visible. If it was there then it was not given much publicity. If we were not prepared in a big way, for a World Event, then we have to be ready to accept the small benefits we will receive.

Some Pakistani Catholic youth from Poland were emailing saying they did not know many of the representatives from the country. For any National Youth Director to collect the whole Pakistani delegation to WYD and plan together must have been extremely hard. In the given background, we have to be satisfied with the little we get from Krakow, Poland.

The WYD Programs began in 1986 with St John Paul taking the initiative to invite Catholic Youth to be prepared for the Challenges of the time. Ever since then, every two or three years the WYD Programs have been held. Though it is called WYD, the Program lasts for a week. This is the second time the Program is being held in Poland. The last time it was in Poland was in 1991, when the Russian Empire was crumbling. This is the 14th WYD. The theme was: Blessed are the Merciful for they shall be shown Mercy.

The minute the Program ends, it will be known where and when the next Program will be held on what topic.

If we are serious now, then we must plan for the next WYD. That will mean regular meetings in active Parishes - if not in all Parishes - on the theme of WYD. The journalists will have to write about it especially in Urdu language.

For me Pakistani Catholic Youth meeting every month is very important. Churches where the Youth do not meet regularly will continue to have Seasonal Programs like Christmas Get together, Lenten Program "Sham e Calvary" (Evening of Calvary).

For me Regular Youth Formation Programs is where Formation takes place. It has to involve the Youth. The Process is very important. Participants always learn from a Process. Seasonal Programs come and go; they depend on individuals with talent. The regular Programs get all involved. Even the less talented contribute and sometimes turn out to be big learners and contributors to the Youth Development Activities.

I look forward to the Youth Commissions playing such a role, of initiating discussions on the next WYD and at same time drawing on the experience of the Catholic Pakistani Youth who have participated in various WYDs. There must be a data base of all from Pakistan who attended WYD Programs. We must begin enrolling now already for the next WYD.

If we plan and work in a systematic way, we will move forward. For the time being the Youth must bring back from Poland, whatever they can. Pakistani Catholic Youth must plan concrete acts of Mercy. That will be a positive outcome which the Youth Commission can present to the world at large. Pakistan has enough problems, let us see how the Catholic Youth can be a part of the solution to the problems. The world needs love, forgiveness and mercy. Let us the heralds of this Good News.

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