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Franciscans in South Asia: Together to Serve the ‘Lepers of our Time’

September 12, 2019. The commitment to remaining close to religious leaders of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism and for interreligious dialogue, peace and harmony was recalled.

The Franciscans of South Asia reaffirm their evangelical commitment to care for the marginalized, for the protection of creation and for interreligious harmony, according to Fides News Agency. Fr. Nithiya Sagayam OFMCap, told the agency that about 60 major Superiors of different Franciscan, male and female congregations, from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, from August 18-24, 2019 to reflect and try to respond effectively, in an evangelical sense, to the challenges of this region. Rooted in the Franciscan spirituality, the participants promised to “revive their life and mission with renewed vigor”. The countries of South Asia face similar challenges in fields such as social injustices, extreme poverty, degradation of women, abuse of children’s rights, national and international migration, refugees due to climatic reasons, growing extremism and fundamentalism, the challenges of Christianity as a negligible minority, the oppression of indigenous peoples, abandonment of rural areas and the formation of slums. As reported to Agenzia Fides, the Franciscans reiterated a special commitment towards the poorest, both at a personal and community level. Bishop Joseph Pradhan Sridarunsil, SDB, at the head of the Diocese of Surat Thani, in Thailand, in his message to those present, highlighted the charisma of the preferential option for the poor, for peace and for the protection of creation. The commitment to remaining close to religious leaders of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism and for interreligious dialogue, peace and harmony was recalled. During the national reports, the delegates of all the South Asian countries presented their life and mission in particular for the poorest.

The assembly also examined the dimensions of Franciscan spirituality in relation to the most burning issues of society, indicating the Franciscans as peacemakers, bearers of justice, gender equality, promoters of the rights of the marginalized and the oppressed.

In conclusion, the assembly approved a ten-point program for the life and mission of the Franciscans in South Asia, in which the will to live the fundamental Franciscan values, to serve the “lepers of our time”, to remain close to the poor and the marginalized, to coordinate the activities of the various Franciscan congregations, to pay particular attention to dialogue, peace, and harmony was highlighted.

On the 800th anniversary of the meeting of St. Francis with the Sultan and on the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, interreligious celebrations will be scheduled for all religious festivals. A special mention goes to the rights and condition of the woman.