Friday, August 21, 2009

In search for the Asian face of Jesus

THE work of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) is basically pastoral. Or, at least, that is how its Secretary General, Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, sees it.

Being such, the primary pastoral focus articulated by the first FABC plenary assembly in Taipei in 1974 was building a renewed local church in a mission of integral evangelization in the midst of Asian realities, such as Asia’s being a mosaic of ancient cultures and being the cradle of ancient religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam).

A tall pastoral order, indeed, especially on the ground when, according to Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati, India, one has to “rub shoulders with such fundamentalists of various categories (religious, cultural, market) , cultural nationalists, xenophobes, fascists of various colours, Senas of divers persuations, Bajrang Dals, Falung Gongs, Maoists and Marxists of unique self-description.”

Pastoral workers and evangelizers, says Archbishop Menamparampil “will have to deal with authoritarian governments, discriminating officers, callous members of the dominant community, biased press, and possibly an insensitive neighborhood.”

Which is why, the Archbishop notes—and this maybe where the rub is—“Making dogmas out of alien ideologies that do not correspond to the cultural realities of Asia would be a mistake, especially in this era in which culturally conditioned meta-narratives are being questioned.”

Considering these realities may take more plenary assemblies, more theologizing and sociological analyses. But the man of the streets of Vietnam or Pakistan or even here in the Philippines, perhaps, just wants to see what the late Pope John Paul II has been appealing all along in Ecclesia in Asia: the Asian face of Jesus.

Today in the streets of Hong Kong or anywhere else in Asia, it would be hard to distinguish, if at all possible, who bears the Asian face of Jesus and those who don’t.

But with even worse socio-political realities during the time of St. Justin (c. 120) who wrote an apology on the Eucharist with the pagan Roman Empire ganging up at bay, the face of Jesus was harder to manifest.

But then the early Church had the likes of St. Perpetua and Felicity and Justin himself who ended up a martyr for showing the Face of Jesus to the world. But then, too, at the end of every Eucharistic celebration, church-goers, the brothers and sisters, would go and attend to the needs of the widows, the orphans and those in need.

Really, too much unlike today.

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