Atambua Diocese Encourages Young People To Get Into Politics

2007-07-03 00:00:00

The Commission for Laity in Atambua diocese has recently conducted political education seminars to help empower people, especially young Catholics, in local Church communities.

In all, 314 young Catholics representing all 53 parishes in the diocese attended the seminars, held June 18-21 in each deanery of the diocese: Malaka, North Belu, Mana and Kefamenanu.

Principal speakers were Vinsensius Loe Mau and Herman Abatan, respectively deputy head and executive secretary of the Commission for Laity, and Father Yohanes Laka Senda, praeses (spiritual director) of Lo´o Damian Major Seminary in Lalian, 10 kilometers south of Atambua.

Others were Raymundus Sau Fernandez, deputy district head of North Central Timor (TTU, Indonesian acronym) and chairman of the TTU chapter of Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDI-P, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle), and Yohanes Bernando Seran, a specialist on political issues.

When Loe Mau addressed the 90 young Catholics attending the June 21 seminar in Kefamenanu, capital of TTU district, he emphasized the importance of their involvement in politics as "a call to spread values of the Kingdom of God."

Most politicians in the country, he told them, are still obsessed with power, high positions and money. When elections near, he said, "they give people big promises and sometimes food and drink, to get votes, but they forget their big promises and stop caring about people after they get high positions."

Therefore, he suggested, "young Catholics should realize that taking part in politics is really a call to salt the political world with biblical values."

Father Senda, 38, said young people nowadays tend to be indifferent and have hardly any interest to get involved with various organizations. "But as young people," he told participants, "you should be open-minded and realize you have so much potential. You just have not yet developed that potential."

The priest, who is also spiritual director for young Catholics in the diocese, also stressed that "the Church needs young Catholics who, as agents of renewal, can create a new habitus within families and basic communities as well as in organizations and politics."

The desired new habitus involves attitudes and behavior, based on goodness, love and justice, that individuals and groups would use in forming approaches, deepening their understanding and relating to other individuals or groups.

Marsela Fanu, one of two young Catholics who spoke with UCA News after the seminars, said she is grateful for the chance to attend the seminar. "I feel ´converted´ through it," said the 25-year-old woman from St. John the Baptist Church of Neisleu. Before joining the training course, she said, she regarded politics as "a dirty field" into which good Catholics should not venture, and this idea has kept her from getting involved in politics.

However, thanks to the seminar, "I now understand we can evangelize people through politics," she acknowledged. She also expressed a hope that the diocesan commission will regularly organize similar courses.

Alfridus Taolin, 28, from St. John of Vianney Church in Maubesi, said the seminar "helped broaden my horizon and animated my spirit to continue in politics in order to spread biblical values." Taolin, a member of PDI-P TTU District Chapter, added that he hopes more young Catholics will get involved.

Abatan, one of the main speakers, told UCA News that the seminars were part the commission´s 2007 work program. He also explained that they were designed to empower basic communities, especially young Catholics.

He said they aimed to give young Catholics a basic understanding of politics, encourage them to see politics as a "prophetic field" that they must cultivate and salt, and prepare them to become smart and wise political cadres.

"We need smart, skilful and militant young people to manage political issues, so we must provide them with ongoing political education," he pointed out.

Abatan added that all the participants agreed to organize similar seminars in their own parishes and to hold such courses on advocacy education in 2008.


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