A Salesian educator talks about his interactions with young people in the metropolis and with students from mainland China. Expressing love for Christ through witnesses and fellow Christians is urgent. The maturing of the faith in young people is delayed by making compromises with those who hold economic and political power.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Giovanni Pang Chenyu is a young man from Hong Kong, who has been involved in the Salesian community since adolescence. At present, he teaches young people linked to the religious community’s schools. Giovanni is famous for a selfie taken with Pope Francis at the Asian Youth Congress in Daejeon (Korea) in 2014 (pictured). Here is the testimony he gave at the AsiaNews Symposium.
For the past decade, the housing supply in Hong Kong has not been able to meet the drastic growth in population. This has become a major social problem. Young people in Hong Kong cannot see a way out, so they tend to remain reluctant to respond proactively. On the other hand, a few year ago Hong Kong a group of young entrepreneurs established an online platform called TVMOST, (100毛」in Chinese) with limited resource. TVMOST has produced and broadcast many short videos which clearly address the views of young people in Hong Kong, including myself.
"This is the best of time, this is the worst of time". At some time in the past, we Catholics in Hong Kong did clearly understand and perform our role as a bridge between the Church and society. However, it seems that the current "Agreement" has been presented as the best, and that we should accept it.
On 8 December 1965, in a message from the Vatican II to youth, the Church acknowledged and appreciated the ability and passion of young people to cope with challenges and changes, to seek opportunities. However, I see great discrepancy between the above message from Vatican II and the situation of young people in Hong Kong 50 years later. Young people in Hong Kong cannot feel and bear witness to the "Love of the Church" promised by Our Father.
Hong Kong is currently still an international city, and young people in Hong Kong have been meeting people from different countries. They also love to travel to other countries. So they have adopted a so-called "Instant-noodle culture". They want everything to be ready instantly, do not want to wait for more than three minutes. However, their families, schools, the Church cannot fulfill their expectations. The local church cannot follow the pace and expectations of young people. Finally, few and few young people return to the Church, even if they were baptised into it when they were born!
One case goes back a few year ago. A parish priest was brave enough to organise a "Halloween Youth pastoral event" aiming at attracting young people and help the participants to think about the issue of "ghosts and spirits". The event did attract nearly a thousand young people, as well as the media.
A reporter asked the parish priest a question about "The Devil". The parish priest said local property developers or landlords were like devils who drive us towards the material world. A few day later, the Diocese received a complaint from a local billionaire, demanding an apology from the parish priest. Some discussions in society followed about the response of the Diocese.
After a year, the event organiser and the parish priest were called to meet five high officials, including the Bishop. After listening to the Bishop, the young organiser asked: " Am I facing a trial? Have I done anything wrong? I do not understand why I have come to see five priests because of the 'Halloween event'." Things that happened at the meeting did not meet the young person's expectations about the local Church. I think that the local church has not been on same side of youth, they have turned to side of the rich and of the authorities.
I believe that "church", "school", "family" and "playground" are four elements that bring young people to us.
I would like to mention a second incident. It happened during the ten-day university summer camp. There were nearly a hundred of students in the camp. They celebrated the usual Church liturgy but in an interactive way, through the real-life drama of re-enacting the Way of the Cross that Jesus endured, so as to deepen participants’ religious experience.
The event was held between two parishes, A and B, which are at some 30 minutes walking distance from each other. Each station was well-prepared by the youth and caught the attention of many pedestrians. The scene in the street showed how Jesus was crucified.
Suddenly at the seventh station, five black vehicles stopped in front of our procession preventing it from moving forward. Some people from the vehicles told us to stop the event and disperse the participants immediately. The incident lasted for 20 minutes.
In the end, we sent our youth in different directions. An hour later, we met them at the final station in Parish B. The latter could accommodate only 30 people but a hundred university students kneeling before the Christ with tears. Some of them felt depressed, sorrow, some were crying. One of the youths asked whether they should continue to the eighth station. That was no longer necessary because they were at the fourteenth station where Jesus was placed in the tomb.
These university students wept because they knew that it is not easy to have faith and be Catholic. Indeed, they know they can even encounter danger. However, the experiences of the “Way of the Cross” strengthened their faith. This incident occurred in mainland China, where the agreement was signed.
In this case, university students encountered not only the faithfulness and catechism of the traditional Church, but also the questioning of what religious freedom is in their life. They cannot live their religious life, which was gifted by God, in mainland China. Even those under 18 were not allowed to go inside the parish. Aren’t teenagers not our future hope? But they cannot seek any hope.
A letter was sent to me. It said: thank you for your happiness, which accompanies me in every sleepless night; your laughter heals my misfortune, my depression was lifted by such trust.
After I read it, my heart got heavier. In my diocese, lots of people perform charity work; unfortunately, they are not good company to patients. We hope the Church can raise the value of missionary companions.
Because they always rely on “Church”, “school”, “family”, “playground”, these four elements are for development. When youth are impressed by this witness of love, they have the courage to find true love and vocational discernment. Now, most of us wade through the river by groping for stones. Is it because there is no one encouraging and leading us to move forward?
Let’s ask in which parish we could find the discriminated? Let us think about those who are divorced, those who abort, homosexuals, drug addicts, prisoners… Why we cannot find them in the Church? Youth are willing to accept and start to walk on the path of sanctification. But they are defeated by different voices in the Church. If we found supportive companions, would the current situation be any different?
If we can love each other in the Church, it is because I see the Father as a shepherd, not as a leader. Among Catholics, we see our family, not visitors in the zoo, the faces of joy in the youth, not the hardship of volunteers. Why do we still have hope? Because I am convinced, God is love.