533 - May 2013
March 26th, 2013 - May 5th, 2013

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ASIA-OCEANIA

North – South: the viewpoint of one who is there

Several friends have asked me news about the situation in Korea. I will try to express in a few words a difficult and complex situation, as I manage to understand it.

The tension between the North and South is real. Every year in the spring, when the American army and that of South Korea carry out joint military exercises, tension rises and is expressed, sometimes in provocative actions: the sinking of a warship, the bombing of the islands near the border, the launch of short-range missiles. What we are experiencing these days, therefore, becomes rather routine. (Vincenzo BORDO)



To instill in them some courage

Excerpts from the Christmas letter of Brother Bernard WIRTH, for more than 40 years a missionary among the poor of Asia.

Around me, I see much worse... Especially at the Detention Center in Bangkok where I spend two days a week. It is true that last year I was planning to become more involved. In fact, contrary to expectations, I signed up at the college. A new contract for five years! I hesitated and thought a lot about it. The pressure from my confreres was strong: I’ve been working there for more than 40 years, and it also allows me to contribute significantly to the financing of the upkeep of our young men at home…

On the other hand, I could not see myself being full-time at the Detention Center. It is true that there is plenty of work, but being there two days, I already feel overwhelmed and exhausted in this environment where people who are so miserable and so desperate are locked up, with problems that pile up daily and with so few solutions... When I meet with the prisoners, I see how much they need someone who has enough energy to listen to them, share their pain and instill in them the courage to continue to survive... How could I do this myself if I am already worn out! This is why I always try to approach them with a smile, and at every visit to the Centre, my dress is at least that of a university professor; I see in that a sign of respect for the prisoners and I always tell myself that they deserve even more respect than my students at the college...

Last week we had permission to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in the Centre. First one hundred prisoners, representing 14 rooms (there are about 1200 of them), came together, Africans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Pakistanis, Hmong, Sri Lankans and Westerners prayed and sang in their respective languages and religions. Then the police allowed us to enter for ten to fifteen minutes each room to sing with them, wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, give them a sign of friendship and give them a little gift... Whenever I enter one of the rooms where they live on top of each other in terrible conditions, it tugs at my heart and I cannot speak when we shake hands… And my companions were equally moved, especially since it’s been two months that they have been denied the right to have visitors... But that is a problem which I hope can be solved...

There is more bad news, such as that of Leonardo, a friend locked in the Detention Center for four years, and whom I had managed to bail out. A political refugee, victim of the genocide in Rwanda, we welcomed him into our home for nine months until he broke down psychologically and was obliged to return to the Centre, totally insane... I also think of Hmong families from Vietnam, locked up for nearly two years, with all their young children who do not understand why they’re behind bars day and night... I should also mention my Burmese friends who work in my neighborhood and others across the country: without papers, and therefore cruelly exploited.

Yes, life is not always beautiful for many people and my concern when I’m with the young people here at home or with the students at the university, is to draw attention to this world of misery too easily ignored. But I must stop here: it is true that you, all of you who are my friends, have many worries too. I hope that the year 2013 will fill you with great joy and will afford you the opportunity to relieve the pain of others. (Audacieux pour l’Évangile, April 2013)



When justice is not just

Fr. Maurizio GIORGIANNI, of the Oblate Mission in Korea, reflects on a sad experience of mission.

During the last four months I was going back and forth from Chollado to help a multicultural family. The issue was sad, because the couple was preparing for a divorce. The wife needed someone to help her with translation to understand the questions presented by the courts.

For me it was the first time that I went so many times to the courts. Sometimes there was a feeling that I was not in the right place. As a priest I am supposed to unite people and not divide, but my role at the courts was as translator.

Multicultural families usually belong more to the poorer class of society. After getting to know the story of their marriage, I could understand the pain and suffering each member of the family was going through, especially the mother who has been carrying some physical and psychological wounds. Every time I went to the court, I could know the family better and also their situation. I was thinking more about the children of this family. The last time when I met the family, it was time for the couple to decide their future course and the future of their children too. Before the court would make a decision, every detail of their divorce was discussed.

On the day after the judgment was passed, I went back home deeply sad. I was thinking to myself that surely the problem between the two has been solved; for the wife: from now on no more beatings and screaming. Now that they are divorced, they can live in peace. Love had turned into hatred and selfishness had divided their family.

But was divorce the right solution to their problem? My impression is that the two were so deeply wounded inside that they could not think of anything else but divorce. But again was the judgment passed right and just? Was justice done to them? I wonder. Human justice to some extent can help change the situation but the justice of God cannot.

It happens that when it is so difficult to solve a problem, we go outside seeking for advice and a solution. At times we think that if we were to really forgive the other, we may lose our dignity and suffer more consequences. I think the real solution to our problem comes only when we have a change of heart. (Far East Star: Japan-Korea Newsletter, March-August 2013)



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