Laymen participating in the Asian Continental Assembly see the synod as a vehicle for bringing change, new ways of thinking, and new directions, and are happy to have contributed their Asian voices to the process.
By Sr Bernadette Reis, fsp – Vatican News / Special Envoy of Synod’s General Secretariat
There are eight laymen among the delegates participating in the Asian Continental Assembly on Synodality. They were chosen as delegates by their respective Episcopal Conferences.
In an interview with Vatican News, six of them share the concerns, the hopes, and the dreams they have brought with them, which they have been sharing throughout the three-day Assembly.
Suklesh Costa represents Bangladesh and works among the poor in his country through Caritas. He brings the expectations of the people he serves with him to the Assembly. “What is synod?” Suklesh asks. “The synod is humanity. So, while I am working with Caritas, I’m working with the Synod,” he affirms.
“Synod means learning together,” Suklesh continues. “So, I’ll carry this message, and I will journey together with many groups of people, with the poor peoples. And I will witness the love of Christ to the poor people. So, this is my commitment that we will bring some changes for the new millennium in the Church. We are Church,” Suklesh continued, “so together we will be Church.
Amjad Gulzar represents the Pakistan Bishops’ Conference and also works with Caritas. He acknowledges that at first, the synod process was unclear. After reading the different documents and reflecting on them, “we started exchanging and having discussions… and we realized this process is really very comprehensive…. We found that this synodal journey is really a process which invites us to discuss, to reflect, and to listen to each other.”
He sees this process reflected in the Continental Assembly he has participated in. “We found many different representatives from different countries…we got to know the different reports, sharing, and reflections from different delegates from different countries in our continent. And we saw that issues are more or less the same, but sometimes the contexts are different and they are taken in a different way. But the process which was carried out here – listening, reflection, sharing, and exchanging the different components related to the synodal journey – it has really given us a new way of thinking.”
Amjad concluded by saying that he looks forward to a “new way of thinking, a new direction of moving ahead for this synodal journey by engaging different stakeholders, different sets of people, different groups and communities in the different countries, in different continents which ultimately is going to impact the whole universe.”
Ly Sovanna is a delegate of the Episcopal Conference of Bishops Lao and Cambodia. Ly says he is blessed to be able to personally participate in the Continental Assembly. At first, Ly says he felt a little “stressed” and “nervous” since it is his first experience participating in an Assembly with Bishops and he wanted to represent his community well.
One of the things that he highlights are the moments of prayer that punctuated the Continental Assembly. “This is like the Holy Spirit is guiding us to share, guiding us to speak.” What is most important, Ly says is that “we are joining together, listening to each other and learning how to listen to each other.
“This is the voice from Asia to the world,” he says, “its priorities, its concerns about the family, youth, evangelization, formation in the faith.” He looks forward to a guiding document in the “new era of the 21st century so everything will develop more and more, to open new doors and new ways of evangelization.”
Joshua is from Indonesia and represents youth. He says it is a “big honour” to participate in this “really amazing process of synodality.” Through this process, Joshua says that he has learned that “by listening, we can understand more.”
Youth have a lot to share, Joshua continues, “and through this process of synodality, we know that youth have a place in the Church, and youth always have a place to express themselves. And this process of synodality,” he noted gives hope for a better Church and a better future for the world.
Speaking directly to his fellow young people, Joshua concluded by saying there are a lot of places for young people to express themselves and “to feel God’s love through Jesus Christ through the process of synodality. Please bring the Spirit everywhere you are so the Spirit can be also felt by everybody, by every youth, in every community.”
Phouvisith Toudouangdy represents the Episcopal Conference of Laos/Cambodia and is from Laos. He says it is a pleasure for him to participate in the Continental Assembly. Deepening values “of being Church as the People of God,” is the call he has felt in his synodal experience.“It is a significant time,” he continues for the third millennium to allow the Holy Spirit to renew us as Christians in “new life in Christ.”
He brings with him the voice of the “small Christians in Laos,” the voice of the family and of the youth, and especially the “catechists who really work hard at the grassroots to serve the Church silently.”
Lastly, Pablito Baybado representing the Philippines says, “I’m so happy and glad that I am with my laymen, partners and friends and brothers, from all over Asia. Synodality,” Pablito continues, “is a time of planting dreams and through our spiritual conversations, our listening together, and hopefully cooperations in the future, we will make Asia a peaceful and harmonious one.”