Asian Church challenges Australia to find own way to tell Jesus story
Returning from the Asian Mission Congress in Thailand this week, an Australian observer, Fr Terry Bell, says that efforts to understand Jesus' story from an Asian point of view also challenge Australians to find ways to celebrate faith in their own context.
Fr Bell and Catholic Mission's National Education Manager, Patrick Fox, were two of 47 foreign observers attending the congress in Chiang Mai from 18-22 October, coinciding with the international celebration of World Mission Sunday.
The 1047 conference participants, which included 57 bishops, expressed a great vitality through their Christian faith that was often missing in Australia, Fr Bell said in a statement released yesterday.
"Asia is taking up the responsibility not only of receiving the Good News but of telling the story of Jesus in a unique way that enables their personal faith to be strengthened.
"In Australia there are so many voices contrary to the Gospel and sometimes people feel that their faith is something imposed on them rather than being something to celebrate."
The Congress expressed its theme of 'the story of Jesus in Asia' through faith-sharing, workshops, speeches, panels, Eucharistic celebrations, drama, music and dance, Fr Bell said.
In a country in which just 0.7 per cent of the population is Christian, organisers placed great importance on other traditions with Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu commentators taking part in the conference.
Participants were encouraged to "contemplate the Asian face of Jesus Christ in adoration, prayer and worship" and in personal and family life.
"Even though the Apostles came from Asia Minor the faith had to be brought again to Asia by the missionaries but by then it had been very much Westernised," Father Terry said.
"The challenge now is in enabling a Westernised Christianity to truly live comfortably in an Asian context."
Bishop Rev Luis Antonio Tagle from the Philippines delivered a stirring keynote address in which he highlighted the importance of storytelling as a creative framework for understanding mission in Asia, a continent "whose cultures and religions are rooted in great stories or epics".
Fr Bell said this challenges us to think about telling the story of Jesus in Australia.
"It urges us all to seek new ways of understanding and doing mission that is responsive to the realities faced by the people in Australia," Father Bell concluded.
Asian congress challenges us to find joy in faith (Catholic Mission, Media Release, 25/10/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Asian Mission Congress (Catholic Church, Thailand)
Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences
Asia needs a "mango" Church, missionary says (CathNews, 25/10/06)
26 Oct 2006