09/23/2022, 17.30
PHILIPPINES – SRI LANKA – VATICAN
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Young people from Asia speak about ‘The Economy of Francesco’

In Assisi young economists and entrepreneurs meet inspired by Pope Francis’s call for a truly integral form of development. For Jena Espelita, from the Philippines, if used well, blockchain technology can become an opportunity for the poor. Sri Lankan Sohan Patrick wants his country’s economy to create the future, not just take.

Assisi (AsiaNews) – About a thousand young people from 120 countries are taking part in a meeting centred on The Economy of Francesco, a movement of young economists, business people, and entrepreneurs from around the world whom the pontiff, in a 2019 letter, urged to imagine, together, a new model of integral development centred on people.

Francis will meet them tomorrow in Assisi, and many of those who will welcome him are from Asia. One of them is Jena Espelita, from the Philippines, who said: “On this first day I already met young men and women from Indonesia, India, Pakistan, others from South Korea.”

Originally from Baguio City, she has been in Italy for four years, studying at the Sophia University Institute in Loppiano, a multicultural university located in Tuscany associated with the Focolare movement.

A graduate in Economy and Management, she has been involved with The Economy of Francesco from the start and today works in Rome managing computer networks at the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

Speaking about her experience, she said she liked “the openness of adults towards us young people. Indeed, today we are told that we are the present of the world, not the future.

“What is going on in Assisi is part of a much broader process that brings together different ways of looking at integral development, not only economics, but also technologies and psychology. Pope Francis is the point of reference because he stands with the poor.”

The pontiff “has invited us to see everyone as brothers and sisters, part of one humanity, and to create peace, development and equality. It is a long journey, of course, but in these meetings, we share experiences and concrete steps to promote possible change.”

“In the Philippines we have many problems in managing the environment,” she said. “Water pollution kills children in the poorest areas. Slums grow and forested areas near cities are cleared.

Yet, when asked how her native country should change starting with the ideas shared by young people involved with The Economy of Francesco, she noted that, “Answers are coming from below, with innovative ideas.”

In fact, “One example is in south southern Philippines where blockchain technology is being used to involve the poor to protect the environment; those who clean up a certain area are rewarded with coins in a cryptocurrency that can be used to buy essential goods.”

Other important examples include “various forms of microcredit that help people outside traditional banking to start a business; or even caring for people, like the experience of Bukas Palad,” a foundation that “takes care of parents who live in the most difficult contexts”.

Sohan Patrick is another young person who travelled to Assisi from Asia. The young economics graduate teaches finance in his homeland, Sri Lanka, a country in a deep economic crisis, the result of an unfair model of development.

He too responded to Pope Francis’s appeal in his parish in 2020 where he set up a group to promote concrete actions to build a fairer and more sustainable future.

Speaking to Vatican News, the young man said that much of modern economics is based on taking from the earth, on producing something and maximising wealth. By contrast, inspired by Pope Francis’s call, young people in Assisi are working on a new kind of economics, which he hopes to take back home. 

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”