(Sunday, a trained catechist has just returned from the Philippines after completing a full year of formation as young Christian leader in the Institute of Formation, Fondacio Asia (IFFAsia), Fairview Park, Quezon City. He will serve in St Mary's Cathedral Parish, Sandakan early next year.)
My symbol is the Samaritan woman at the well. Through the story of the Samaritan woman, it enlightens me a lot on how to share the love of God with others. Through this mission project, we are like the Samaritan woman who shared God’s love and the water of life. Before embarking on the mission project, I tried to practice playing the guitar as much as I could. I tried to perfect my skill. I knew that music is really an important component in animating activities or programs. It really encouraged me to do my best in animating songs especially our theme song of the mission project ~ 'Christian for the world.' Even though I had already made preparation way before the mission project, I still thought that it wasn't good enough. I wasn't confident with myself, the fuel needed to propel myself forward. Prior to the mission project, I would normally play ordinary music using and through my own style. I needed something more to draw the young people closer to God and to one another.
Mission in Vietnam
The mission, themed 'Youth Initiative For Peace' was held on 4th - 28th October 2013 in Vietnam and Cambodia. We spent 3 days in Vietnam and 21 days in Cambodia. The first program in Vietnam, 5th October, was the encounter with the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM). We were warmly welcomed by the local youth. The strong participation and commitment of the young people reflected the vibrancy of the Church.
I strummed my guitar and sang a song for them. The music melted the ice in each of us. We felt at ease and at home and were prepared to participate in the program. Music makes the way through. We were instantly connected. It invited me to be more prepared for more action songs as we move into more upcoming events. The call was to bring out the joy within the youth.
Space and opportunity were provided for us to attend peace building session. The session was animated by young members of Initiative Of Change, a worldwide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, committed to the transformation of society through changes.
They shared about their initiatives to promote peace in Cambodia through the involvement of young people. They believe that the youths are the most important agent of change. We are challenged to make the world a better place for all. It starts from self. It challenges me ~ 'Do I want / am I ready to be 'the change'?
Mission in Cambodia
On 8th October, we travelled by bus from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It was an 8-hour journey. The following day we visited one of the local organization, the Youth for Peace movement (YFP). Youth for Peace is committed in taking care of the youth aimed at cultivating and promoting peace.
One of the community that we visited was the Undong village which is a bit far from the city. Through the peace building session in Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT) I realize that acceleration of economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, protection of peace and stability of the region, provides opportunities for peaceful discussion in finding solutions.
After the session in ACT, we moved to Fr. Gustavo’s parish, the Child Jesus Parish. There, we were briefed by Fr. Gustavo and Bong Sophal. We visited the Missionary of Charity (MC). The residents are special kids. My assignment then was video recording. However, before we left the centre, I played the guitar, sang and danced. My little contribution had added some joy to the special kids.
While in Cambodia, my role was to animate youth encounter sessions through music. Many young people were attracted to my music. If the Samaritan woman shared the living water with the people, I realized that I need to share the music of life with others. I need to use my talent to draw people to go to church, to worship and praise God. Through music I can also promote peace, uplifting the spirit of living in harmony in society.
There are so many approaches that I can do using my talent to help the people to be more aware of their responsibility to ensure that peace prevails in their community. Taking good care of the environment is pertinent in sustaining peace as in Pope Emeritus Benedict's message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, 'If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.'
The most memorable event was the inter-faith dialogue session held in Siem Reap. Along the way, I was wondering how we could communicate effectively with the imam and the muslim brothers in one of the mosque in Siem Reap. Questions like, 'Are we welcomed? Can we enter the mosque? How would they react when we pose them questions? Is it going to be sensitive? kept knocking at my heart. Through experience in my country, many questions are considered sensitive.
When we arrived at the mosque, it was prayer time. One of the imams met us and apologised (in fact we came earlier than the appointed time) as he could not entertain us. They need to do solat (pray) first. Even then, he invited us to go inside the mosque while they proceeded with their prayer session.
This time, Venerable Tola, a Buddhist monk and our tour guide was with us. I was moved by the interaction of the monk and the imam during the meeting session. They greeted each other, held hands and had an interactive dialogue in the mosque. I could see the glow of happiness and peace within them.
I wish I could experience such scenario in my country. Inter-faith dialogue opens the door to peace building. I realize that this is the invitation from God to me, to build good relationship with the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu community back home in my country. Such relationship could only be achieved through God's love.
Through the talent that God bestowed upon me, I realized that I can actually build good relationship bond with people around me. Music is part of my life. Therefore, I will maximise my effort to bring comfort and relief to those depressed, oppressed and in trouble. When we listen to music especially spiritual music, we can focus and understand what actually we should do to resolve our problem. Music may open our hearts to listen to the cries of the poor. Let us rejoice in the sound of music, praising the Lord in all circumstances as in Psalm 28 : 7 'The Lord is my strength and my shield ; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.'