DAEJEON, South Korea – Two thousand young people from 23 countries across Asia converged for the 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD6) held in the Diocese of Daejeon Aug 10-17. A total of 53 delegates from across the arch/dioceses of Kuala Lumpur, Melaka-Johor, Penang, Kuching, Miri, Sibu, Kota Kinabalu, Keningau, and Sandakan formed the contingent from Malaysia.
The AYD6 theme “Asian Youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines on you” was aimed at bringing the participants to remember the roots of their faith, to re-discover the faith that they might have lost and to walk along with Jesus and the martyrs as witnesses in today’s world.
During the first three days, delegates spent their “Days in the Diocese” at the dioceses assigned to them. The Malaysian delegation was divided into two teams and sent to the dioceses of Incheon and Busan. While there, we were given the chance to experience Korean traditional culture and homestay with Korean foster families. Through the interaction with the diocesan youths in the planned activities and Mass attendance, we had the privilege to bond with them and grew in appreciation of our newfound friendship.
For the next five days, the delegates moved to the National Youth Center at Daejeon where other activities were held. Daejeon, a place which holds the bloodiest history of Catholic martyrdom, is also home to the greatest concentration of Catholic shrines. The “Daejeon Experience” thus made a deep impact as we gathered in the land watered by the blood of martyrs.
At Solmoe Shrine, the birthplace of the first Korean priest, Andrew Kim Dae Geon, we came together for the Inaugural Mass presided by Bishop Lazzaro You Heong Sik, Bishop of Daejeon Diocese, and were made welcome by the Korean youths in a special Welcoming Ceremony.
The opening words of Bishop Lazzaro calling us to “make the Church in Asia a younger and a more missionary reality, which would happen in solidarity with the Pope and with his Evangelii Gaudium” set the tone for us in great anticipation of our meeting with the Pope.
Spread out over the next few days, the programs consisting of a play, workshops and exhibitions were aimed at helping us to reflect on our own faith journey and the meaning of martyrdom in our present time, as well as to recognize contemporary forms of persecutions and to understand our role as young Christians.
However, during the program “Knocking Festival”, all delegates from all countries were required to give a presentation. Our Malaysian and Brunei delegation staged a presentation which featured a dance performance choreographed by the Keningau diocese delegates.
The highpoint of the whole AYD experience was the opportunity to meet Pope Francis at the Solmoe Shrine. Chosen from among the delegates were three youth representatives from Cambodia, Hong Kong and South Korea, who shared with the Pope their struggles in life as a Catholic youth in their country and seeking his advice on vocations, finding happiness and facing challenges in daily life. Though not chosen to speak directly to the Pope, it was still an amazing experience to hear him speak straight from his heart to us. He told us that Christ was knocking at the door of our hearts, and that we should go out from our comfort zone to knock on the doors of other people’s hearts, so as to invite Christ to come into their life. Simple, direct and to the point instruction which we need to take to heart and do!
The most fortunate from among us was Becker Ray Benedict from the diocese of Keningau, who was chosen with 16 other youth representatives of the different countries to share lunch with Pope Francis! It was an experience of a lifetime which Becker would remember forever!
Another deep experience which we cherished was the 5km Pilgimage Walk from Hanseo University to Haemi Castle, the route taken by the Korean martyrs on the way towards their execution at Haemi Castle. It provided us with moments to reflect on our own faithfulness and commitment to God as we learned of the passion and courage of the martyrs.
On the final day, the youth executed the important task of formulating a Statement born out of the AYD6. Youth representatives from each country got together to produce a Statement in their own language and culture, declaring to themselves and to the world at large their convictions of being a Christian youth, the mission to undertake for Christ, the vision of being united in Christ across the Asian continent, the desire to do God’s will, the willingness and readiness to be sent forth. The Statement was then read by youth representatives from each region of Asia. (Read full text of the AYD6 Statement on p16)
The 6th AYD concluded with the Closing Mass by Pope Francis at Haemi Castle, with a final affirmation “You are not only a part of the future; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! You are the present of the Church. Keep close to one another…draw ever closer to God…” He left us with the challenge to “wake up”, to be assured of God’s love and to go out to the world so that “by the mercy shown to you”, our friends, co-workers, neighbours, countrymen, everyone on this great continent “may now receive the mercy of God”! (For full text of the Pope’s homily at the Concluding Mass go to www.zenit.org) – AYPT/DYA