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India Church to call off Asian Youth Day

Visa issues and other problems force officials to cancel next year’s gathering of Catholic youth

India Church to call off Asian Youth Day

Yong Indonesians perform a traditional dance to welcome participants to the 7th Asian Youth Day celebrations in Yogyakarta in 2017. (ucanews photo) 

Church officials say that Asian Youth Day will no longer take place in India in October 2021 due to unforeseen circumstances.

“Our country was given the responsibility of hosting Asian Youth Day (AYD), a mega event that promotes youth at the highest level where they can put forward their views and ideas and voice their concerns. Unfortunately, we will not be able to give them that platform,” Bishop Nazarene Soosai of Kottar told ucanews.

“After consultations with higher authorities, it was decided that it was better to call off the event as the present scenario does not allow us to hold the program,” said Bishop Soosai, who heads Indian bishops’ commission for youth.

“We had hoped that there would be a change of government in 2019, but that did not happen and the present situation does not look good either.”

In the 2019 general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide to secure a second term of five years to run the national government.

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Indian delegation of Catholic youth received the AYD Cross from their Indonesian counterparts at the conclusion of the 2017 event in Yogyakarta, as a mark of acceptance to host the event in India 2021.

“There are several practical reasons why this event was cancelled. A major reason was the granting visa to our visitors from neighboring countries,” Father Chetan Machado, secretary of the Youth Council of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, told ucanews.

“It is unfortunate that our country has lost this opportunity to showcase the unity and diversity that we enjoy, but the present situation does not permit us to host this program.

“The country is currently going through difficult times. Guests from neighboring countries will face visa problems and even if they get visas their movements will be restricted to the venue.

“Officially, we will communicate to the Asia Youth Desk our inability to host this program after the bishops’ meeting in February.”

AYD is an international event organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, the Office of Laity and Family, the Youth Desk and the host country.  

First organized in Hua Hin, Thailand, in 1999, AYD has been held at intervals of two, three and five years. Previous events have been held in Taipei, Taiwan (2001); Bangalore, India (2003); Hong Kong (2006); Imus, the Philippines (2009); and Daejeon, South Korea (2014). Pope Francis attended the AYD event in South Korea.

The week-long gathering enables Catholic youth from across Asia to experience the Gospel with others from different cultures and learn how it applies to current issues like social justice. Activities include prayers, forums and workshops. The event is used to enrich, inspire and renew the spiritual lives of young Catholics across Asia.

In 1991, during the fifth World Youth Day in Czestochowa, Poland, delegates from several Asian countries expressed their desire to create a network and various channels of their own to inspire the Catholic youth of the continent.

In 1993, a youth consultation conference was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Representatives suggested that a youth working group be formed as a parish-based subsidiary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences to gather support for youth leaders within the organization and to enhance cooperation and links among youth parish groups in Asian countries.

The Youth Desk was officially established in 1994. Since its inception, the team has organized a series of activities for Asian youth and youth leaders, including the Asian Youth Gathering during World Youth Day, the Asian Youth Ministers’ Meeting and Asian Youth Day.

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