A Franciscan Year Focussed on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

 A Franciscan Year Focussed on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

For the first part of my Franciscan Year, I was sent to Indonesia to learn about the Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) and Eco-Pastoral activities in the Province of St Michael the Archangel (Indonesia). The province has a well-established JPIC office in Jakarta with dedicated staff, and Eco-Pastoral is active in several locations around Indonesia, in Sindanglaya, Atambua, Khurbokho, Pagal and Tentang.

In January and February, I went to the JPIC office every day to learn its administrative structure. In March and April, I was in Eco-Pastoral Sindanglaya, where the friars administer a boarding school and the elementary school. Close by is a middle school, and the friars offer accommodation for students from low-income families and from the countryside.

On weekends and school breaks, a Lay Brother and Eco-Pastoral staff guide the students as they work in the garden or farm. They learn about compost packaging, gather grass to feed the goats, feed the fish, water plants, and harvest vegetables and other produce for their meals. They also learn to lead prayers, and read and sing at liturgical services.

I spent the final week of May to the end of June in Atambua, West Timor, near the border with Timor Leste. The journey to the friary in Atambua took six hours, and the Eco-Pastoral Motamaru mission is another 30 km by motorcycle.

The villagers are poor. When I visited a couple of nearby homes, I was sad to see that they only had soil floors and their walls were made entirely of bamboo. Imagine how wet everything would be when it rained.

The mission consists of two lay Franciscan brothers and four aspirants, and is neither affiliated with a church nor engaged in traditional ministry. Instead, it finds ways to interact with the villagers through eco-farming and, because it has a water pump, providing them with clean water. They are undoubtedly living the two Franciscan lungs of fraternity and minority.

My month there was a precious experience that strengthened my vocation. The morning I arrived, they had already begun their day. I am grateful that I was able to work with them in the paddy fields. It reminded me of what I used to see with my maternal great grandmother when I was a child.

However, the rice mill was what really moved me. It was not what I am used to seeing in my hometown in Sabah. This was smaller and ‘”do it yourself”.

I took a photo of Br Agus smiling while sitting on top of the rice mill, and looking at the photo later, I thought that he must have been smiling with the satisfaction of reaping what he had sown. A few bags of rice were kept for the friars’ consumption for the next six months, and the rest was sold to support the life of the friars and the aspirants.

Initially I was troubled by the lack of security. People were free to come and go, and to use our water pump at any time. I was always worrying as I had heard about goats and cows being taken in the past. However, God was teaching me to have faith, and to worry less in order to pay attention to what I was doing. So I said, “God, if it is meant to be, so be it.”

From West Timor, I moved to Flores Island on 2 July. There I worked, until the end of August, in an Eco-Pastoral with parish in Khurbokho, and later in Eco-Pastoral Pagal, where the Eco- Pastoral ministry began.

I learnt that the Eco-Pastoral mission provides practical experience through study and internships with nearby schools or universities. Students go to learn about how to care for the soil, and how to grow vegetables without using chemicals or pesticides.

The Eco-Pastoral team also teaches the younger generation that farming is a vocation. Eco-Pastoral Pagal is even introducing new varieties of vegetables to the villagers.

It is only now, after working with Eco-Pastoral Pagal, that I can grasp the meaning of Integral Ecology. It is the cycle of life, and we human beings are interconnected with the ecosystem. Eco-Pastoral is a way friars can build bridges in response to the cry of the poor and the earth.

As I look back on my time in Indonesia, I remember a line in a song by Ivan Nestorman in Manggarai dialect (the local language in West Flores) – “One hau de daku nai… ai hau de, mata leso ge”. This translates to “I give you all my loving heart, because you are my sunshine”.

This is like a prayer for me as I give God my time and myself, since he is the one who always shines the light for my journey, and is where my soul finds rest. Now, whenever I am feeling down, I find consolation in looking at the sun rising, shining in dazzling yellow, or setting in an orange-coloured sky. I feel the warmth of God’s love as he is always with me.

Friar Marvin Voo OFM

The Franciscan Year is an important time when the student friar is exposed to other fraternities, missions and possibilities to help him clarify the desire for solemn profession and his sense of belonging to an international Order.

Reflection on the Season of Creation

Reflection on the Season of Creation

The congregation pouring water into a common pot, reminding us of how small each of our actions may be to care for creation but we can still make a difference when we come together as one.

On September 1, the Church of the Risen Christ conducted a paraliturgy and reflection session, followed by a Eucharistic celebration to launch the Season of Creation in the parish.

Parish priest, Friar Esmond Chua, OFM. brought to light that we have allowed injustice and greed to drown out the virtues of justice and peace all in the name of progress and development. Yet, we still refer to ourselves as “Christians” living a double life: pious and humble in church, but selfish and wasteful when in the world. Our response to care for creation has to be one that is internalised.

He then invited us to reflect on the image of rivers. Just as rivers are persistent, such that nothing can stop a stream from flowing, we are to be persistent to let “justice” and “peace” flow. We give up easily even before trying to respond to the call to care for creation because just the thought of what needs to be done can be overwhelming — from having to bring our own utensils wherever we go or to speak out for environmental policy changes. We do not want to be inconvenienced and thus, as a result of our choices: global warming, polluted rivers and land.

He further pointed out to us how we may grow and be persistent like a river, that is to transform our perception, our hearts and our lifestyle. Transforming our perception needs us to see the bigger picture from the “Me, Myself and I” to “You and We”; from “obstacles” to “opportunities”; from “too much work” to “what more must be done”; and from “no one’s watching” to “even if no one’s watching.” This transformation will, then, lead us to see the need, importance and urgency to allow justice and peace to flow in our relationships, perceptions, and treatments towards one another and creation.

Transforming our hearts needs us to make time to listen with the ears of our heart, that is, to dialogue with the oppressed and the voiceless, both people and creation. We are to work together in this, just as the lakes and seas are a collection of rivers.

Friar Esmond requested those present to reflect on the individual commitments that they could make, using the following questions as a guide:

1. What are some of my perceptions about “Caring for Creation” that need to change?
2. What collaborative opportunities are there in my neighbourhood which I can participate in to care for creation?

3. How can I contribute to the care of creation with the unique gifts and talents that I have been entrusted with?

The Litany of Repentance was led by assistant priest, Friar Crispus Mosinoh, OFM. Then the people were invited to make a commitment on how to care for creation; by symbolically pouring water into a common pot, reminding us of how small each of our actions may be to care for creation but we can still make a difference when we come together as one.

The programme drew to a close with Mass and fellowship.

This event was put together in collaboration with Caritas Penang and the Creation Justice Commission of Penang Diocese.

Source: https://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/reflection-on-the-season-of-creation/72786/5

Interfaith Dialogue & Screening on Ecology: Bringing Together Diverse Belief for a Greener Tomorrow

Interfaith Dialogue & Screening on Ecology: Bringing Together Diverse Belief for a Greener Tomorrow

Friar Cosmas Francis OFM (Custody JPIC Animator) participated in a forum on how different faiths understand and care for creation from their faith perspective in conjunction with the Season of Creation 2023.

Faith leaders gathered at the Penang Harmony Centre for an Interfaith and Ecology forum themed Bringing Together Diverse Beliefs for a Greener Tomorrow September 3. The forum was jointly organised by Penang Harmony Corporation (HARMONICO) and the Creation Justice Commission, the Diocese of Penang.

Sukhindarpal Singh, director of Harmonico welcomed everyone for an insightful understanding of Interfaith and Ecology and detailed Harmonico’s vision, mission and programmes. Arokiadass Anthonysamy explained that the Creation Justice Commission of the Catholic Church is following the call of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ in protecting our common global home, organising green workshops, eco exhibitions and community clean-up activities.

The faith panel included Kalpa Vrksha Das, International (Society for Krishna Consciousness), Sukhindarpal Singh (Malaysia Gurdwara Council), Kenneth Lee Tze (Federation Taoist Association Malaysia), Friar Cosmas Francis OFM (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei), Loo Bong Seng (Malaysian Buddhist Association and Malaysian Buddhist Institute), Prof Zainal Alimuddin (Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia Caw. Penang) and Renuka Radakhrishnan (Penang Green Council).

Friar Cosmas gave the Catholic perspective when he related that the Book of Genesis gives an overview of God’s creation, where all humanity has been charged with stewardship of the natural world.

Faith leaders then related that spiritual knowledge is imperative to being in harmony with nature. We must endeavour to close the gap in the inequalities between rich and poor, and to encourage moderation in daily living. Happiness should not be pursued as an end to itself but will always follow the blessings of work in faith and love. Efforts are also being made on the micro level to instil sustainable actions like the 3R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, having recycling stations at religious festivals, instilling the habit of waste not, having eco-friendly religious materials and educating sustainable living.

Moderator Magdalene Chiang summed up the forum’s deliberation in that we are all one human race, we have one Mother Earth as our common home, and we are one in love with the environment.

However, the panellist also expressed concern that citizens are not taking the ecological crisis seriously. E-hailing food services cause more plastic waste and food waste! We all have a duty to protect the earth from the corruption of deforestation and over-development. We should not take Mother Earth for granted. We must harmonise our lives with the environment for if the earth suffers, we humankind are at fault. Statistics are frightening where according to the UN 2023 SDG Summit, the global temperature has already risen 1.1ºC above pre-industrial level, and by 2030 an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of displacement by drought alone. Friar Cosmas solemnly declared that our actions will result in the effect for ‘we will reap what we sow’.

Pope Francis encyclical, Laudato Si’ Praise Be — has the subtitle “on care for our common home”. We all call our planet Mother Earth because of its nurturing nature and, like a mother, she embraces, sustains, and governs us. The encyclical relates to the cry of the earth together with the cry of the poor and downtrodden when facing the ecological sins of wasteful consumerism, the throwaway culture, irresponsible development, environmental degradation, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and global warming. Creation must come with Justice because climate change is an issue of justice where in times of natural disasters, famines, droughts, and floods, the poor are faced with even greater poverty as their sustenance and livelihood are affected.

The forum ended with the presentation of terrarium glass containers that mimic the earth’s eco-system to the panellist and Paul Au, GM of Harmonico. All participants also received an eco-friendly food grade silicon collapsible coffee cup.

The forum ended with the movie The Letter: A Message for our Earth telling the story of a journey of leaders to Rome to discuss the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ with Pope Francis.

Source: We will reap what we sow (heraldmalaysia.com)

Service for Christian-Muslim Dialogue in Singapore

Service for Christian-Muslim Dialogue in Singapore

On the afternoon of Thursday 27 April, the Minister General Br Massimo Fusarelli, Definitor General for Asia-Oceania and President of the Order’s General Commission for Service for Dialogue Br John Wong, and Custos for Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei Br Derrick Yap visited the Harmony Centre at An-Nadhah Mosque in Singapore as part of the Order’s engagement in the Service for Christian-Muslim Dialogue, in the ongoing spirit of Damietta.

The visit was organised by Custody Secretary Br Aiden Peter and the group of friars were very warmly and graciously welcomed by Ustazah (“religious teacher”) Liyana Rosli Asmara, the Director of the Harmony Centre. In September 2019, Ustazah Liyana had participated in an interreligious pilgrimage of 22 young Singaporean and Malaysian adults together with Br Aiden and Br John to Istanbul, Cairo, Mount Sinai, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, as a special commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of the encounter between St Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik Al-Kamil.

The Harmony Centre promotes the learning journey, engages in research, organises initiatives of respectful encounter and deep dialogue, and publishes materials to help build a more peaceful world. During the meeting, the Minister General and Director of the Harmony Centre shared on some common concerns, including the challenges of being persons of faith in societies that are secularised, pastoral care concerns, and how religious leaders can communicate with the youth in a relevant way in places that are now post-religious.

 In addition, Br Derrick and Br John spoke with Ustazah Liyana about some possibilities for upcoming concrete collaborative initiatives in the service of dialogue.

Br John Wong
Definitor General for Asia-Oceania and President of the Order’s General Commission for Service for Dialogue

Source : ofm.org

The Refuge Crisis In Asia (UNHCR)

The Refuge Crisis In Asia (UNHCR)

Join the webinar on ‘The Refuge Crisis in Asia’ via Zoom on Saturday, 2 April 2022 10am – 11am. Hear from the personal experiences of the speakers & learn how you can make a difference organised by UNHCR. Friar Esmond Chua, OFM will be one of the speakers in this event.

Click HERE to register for the webinar.