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Looking Back to our Past, Facing the Challenges of the Present and Projecting our Desired Future Situation in the Service of the Most Vulnerable Communities

This year, the Camillian Pastoral Care Center in Bangkok, once again hosted the fifth training and assessment meeting of the national coordinators and partners of CADIS Foundation. This event is commonly known as the Bangkok Leadership Conference.

Thirty-six (36) participants (religious and lay, men and women) coming from 13 different countries have come together for one week (November 12-17) to reflect on the theme of Servant Leadership: Looking Back to our Past, Facing the Challenges of the Present and Projecting our Desired Future Situation in the Service of the Most Vulnerable Communities. The theme was organized and discussed in three different areas: climate change, leadership and resource mobilization.

The first day was dedicated to a discussion and analysis on the drivers of climate change and its impact. Dr. Monthip Sriratana, the director of Climate Change Research (Thailand) was the main speaker. She began her presentation by defining climate change as a series of events caused by human activities with significant risks to human lives as well as inflicting a wide range of human and natural systems.
This definition explains an undeniable fact that the earth is increasingly warming. The constant rise of the earth's temperature is proven by scientific studies developed in the last three decades. The speaker has presented the indicators of the severity of impact and extent of damage by climate change such as higher temperatures, extreme climatic conditions, droughts, rising levels of carbon dioxide, rising sea levels, food insecurity, and many others.

Unless we take immediate action, these negative climate effects will continue to escalate, becoming increasingly expensive and damaging to our economy, environment, human resources, and the entire planet. The Asia-Pacific region is one of the areas most exposed to natural disasters of various kinds that kill thousands of people every year and cause economic destruction and damage - often affecting several countries simultaneously. Reducing the risk of disasters, therefore, means combining concerted action at local and national levels through effective regional cooperation.

A concerted collaborative effort by different groups - governmental and non-governmental organizations - is urgently needed to develop effective and lasting work plans to mitigate the impact of climate change.

The morning activity (November 12) was enriched by an interactive discussion between the speaker and the participants aimed at their better understanding of the impact of climate change.

In the afternoon, Aris Miranda, MI presented the mission & vision and the strategic plan of CADIS International. In his presentation, he reported the various steps in the genesis and development of CADIS and its significant results and developments to date.

The second day of the conference (November 13-15) was dedicated to the spiritual retreat on the Encyclical Laudato Si, on the theme of Duc in Altum. To go beyond what is already there: Prophecy and Hope with Mons. Broderick Pabillo, DD (Auxiliary Bishop of Manila). On the first day of the retreat, he began reflecting the mission of a servant leader. He highlighted two main aspects of our mission: [1] the lifestyle of a religious, and [2] the service we offer or the ministry we do.

Referring to the history of the church, he emphasized that religious life was born as a protest movement against the form of a church that had been too much identified with the society in general. Consecrated life was meant to be a "counter-society" within the church itself. Inspired by the thought of Thomas Merton, Mons. Pabillo added that religious are called 'out of the world' to live a life radically different from humanity in general. They are well positioned to see the present from God's point of view and to discern the signs of the times.

Citing Pope Saint John Paul II, he stressed that consecrated life should become the proclamation of an alternative way of life to that of the world and of the dominant culture. The purpose of the consecrated life is the conformity to the Lord Jesus in his total donation so that every consecrated person is called to assume the spirit, the heart, the style of living, the way of thinking and acting, the way of being and loving of Christ himself.

To achieve this 'form of life' the religious - 'God’s therapy for the Church' - are called to take on some basic functions in the church and for today's church.

1) Innovative Function
Helping the church to move away from positions centered exclusively on spirituality and on the works of the missions in order to trace new actions according to the coordinates of the sensitivity and love of Jesus in order to create new synergies with the needs of the times.

2) Shock Therapy
Constant effort to make the Gospel livable in a consumeristic society in order not to be co-opted by the world, watering this worldly reality with the seed of the Kingdom of God. Religious must upset the so-called balanced view of history, moving the church from perspectives and stagnant positions towards new horizons, towards innovative points of view and unprecedented situations.

3) Testimony of Comunity Life
Religious communities are the initiation places in realizing an authentic Christian community. Their experience of communion must be a clear sign that our Christian faith can create communities in which peace, justice, sharing and love are not only 'empty words' but 'genuinely lived realities'.

4) A Message to All: Christ, The Question
Religious must offer a clear reference to the intimate bond between being a Christian and following Christ. There is a dramatic need for this consistent belief since there are many 'Christless' Christians around. Consecrated life must bear witness that giving one's life for Christ can fill one's own existence, offering it joy and meaning.

A renewed prophetic spirituality, for a new re-departure, requires:
• a constant approach to the Word of God (Holy Scripture, Church teachings, charism);
• the spirit of discernment to read the signs of the times;
• the audacity and radicalism in proclaiming the will of God in words and deeds;
• infallible hope lived strongly as the Lord of his own history.

After these considerations on the challenges of consecrated life in the Church today, Mons. Pabillo introduced us to the horizon of Pope Francis 'encyclical Laudato Si through a panoramic reading of the six chapters that composed it, focusing on the fundamental question that constitutes the heart of the document itself. What kind of world do we wish to transmit to those who will come after us, to the new generations that are growing? (LS 160).

With a systematic study of the various paragraphs of the encyclical, we have been guided towards this conclusion that the message of Pope Francis constitutes a strong call to conversion; a conversion at different levels - ecological conversion (LS 217); individual conversion; community conversion.
This radical change requires a change of lifestyle and a political will. To achieve this goal it is necessary to adopt and promote some specific attitudes:
• gratitude and gratuity;
• recognition that the world is a loving gift of God;
• to imitate God's generosity in self-sacrifice and in the commitment of good works;
• loving awareness that we are not independent of the rest of creation (universal communion);
• creativity and enthusiasm in solving the problems of the world;
• gratitude for the opportunities that life offers us;
• be spiritually detached from what we own;
• do not succumb to sadness for what we lack;
• take care of the environment, because everything that exists is interconnected.
It is necessary to mature from the awareness that there is only one universe, a common home shared by all creatures that come from the same 'divine' source and that we have only one heart which loves God, other human beings and the environment.

Monsignor Pabillo concluded the three days of reflection with an urgent call to holiness, underlining the fact that there is a great desire of people to become saints. For this reason, the church must present the different figures of holiness to the people of God, as models of reference.

The path to holiness is substantiated by these elements.
• Prayer - There is no holiness without a true life of prayer;
• Sunday Eucharist - It is essential for a truly informed and coherent Christian life;
• Sacrament of Reconciliation - The sacrament of penance is the ordinary way to experience the forgiveness and remission of serious sins committed after baptism;
• The primacy of Grace - Prayer roots us in the truth of the primacy of Christ and in union with him, enriching and nourishing the interior life and the desire for holiness;
• Listening to the Word of God - There is neither prayer nor holiness without a renewed listening to the Word of God.
The signs of holiness in our world today will be:
• perseverance, patience, and humility;
• joy and a sense of humor;
• courage and passion in the life of prayer and in the experience of community life.
From November 15 to 17, the participants had the opportunity to learn with the assistance of Dr. Usha Menon, the fundamentals of fundraising in the humanitarian world, developing the theme of Resource Mobilization for Humanitarian & Development Interventions.
During these two days, Dr. Usha, using theoretical and practical methods has provided the guiding principles and qualities of a fundraiser; underlining the importance of communication with all the actors involved (donors and partners), highlighting the need to have a vision, a mission, and goals to achieve.
The Bangkok conference was an occasion where CADIS executive team was able to meet the CADIS coordinators of the different provinces/delegations and the partners (HADFAFI, FADV, SECSI, FARDEC, RTRC), creating moments of reflection, evaluation and sharing for a better organization of the life and activities of CADIS, reinforcing the relationship with its collaborators.
All this happened in an atmosphere of great operativity but it was above all a precious opportunity to share experiences and mutual knowledge for the development of CADIS, for an increasingly qualified treatment to the victims of disasters and vulnerable people.



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