East Asia. On 26-27 March 2021, the Congress of the East Asia Interprovincial Conference of (CIAO) School took place online with the Commission composed of Directors and Coordinators of the Basic Schools, Higher Education, and Vocational Training of the Provinces of East Asia. The meeting was attended on the Zoom platform, by about 200 Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and lay educators.
The Congress was also followed in direct streaming on the Facebook Page of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello Province from the Philippines and Papua New Guinea (FIL) and registered more than 1,000 participants from the Educating Communities.
The theme of the Congress was “Salesian Educators: Supporters of the Global Pact for Education”. The goal was the formation of FMA and lay educators of the Provinces belonging to CIAO, to give a concrete response to the challenges and objectives outlined by Pope Francis in the Global Pact for Education.
Sr. Jessica Salvaña, FMA, Head of CIAO School and Provincial of Our Lady of Help Province of Cambodia and Myanmar (CMY), welcomed the speakers and participants and then presented the program of the days.
The General Councilor for Youth Ministry, Sr. Runita Borja, in her greeting expressed gratitude to the CIAO School for the work carried out and reminded the participants that the future of nations depends on the formation of young people, who ask to build a better world. For this, it is necessary to work together and have a unified vision on Education. Finally, Sr. Runita encouraged generating proposals and formulating guidelines, starting from the content and work of the Congress.
Sr. Sarah Garcia, FMA, of the IIMA Human Rights Office in Geneva, Collaborator of the Youth Ministry Sector, and CIAO School referent, proposed a reflection on the theme Dignity and Human Rights. Human rights education is an integral part of the right to education. Human rights are promoted through knowledge and skills, attitudes and behaviors. Sr. Sarah highlighted the need to relaunch a new humanism and to work for the common good with a renewed commitment to an education that involves the whole of society.
Sr. Elena Rastello, FMA, Collaborator of the YM Sector, spoke of Integral Ecology as a synodal path that requires both personal and collective conversion. She invited the participants to look both at the gift of creation and at the suffering of the world, educating to dialogue and moderation. She expressed the importance of defending our common home, initiating processes of lifestyle changes.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, Salesian of Don Bosco, Emeritus Bishop of Hong Kong, sent a video with his talk on Peace and Citizenship. As Pope Francis says, there is a need for an educational revolution: taking time to form the heart and build human beings, rather than focusing on academic research. Through education, humanity is made aware of its global interdependence and the dignity of the human person is protected. Cardinal Zen underlined the importance of education in the formation of citizens and the role of the Educating Communities in politics and society.
The Solidarity and Development report was given by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila, Msgr. Broderick Pabillo, SDB, who said that we should not be afraid of change, but try to understand what is happening with the pandemic and respond to the current needs of the people. He listed some ways to reach the poor and encouraged acting together. He then explained the need to form the laity on social issues and the social teachings of the Church, inspiring them to act.
The Mother General of the FMA, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, expressed her appreciation for the CIAO School Congress as an opportunity for different cultures, realities, and languages to share experiences, united by the ‘Salesian language’ of the passion for education. She observed that the world of young people is changing and we are called, as Educating Communities, to accompany them, to be citizens of today and tomorrow. Students need to be listened to because they cannot be educated without knowing them and they must be able to experience good relationships built in synergy.
Sr. Assunta Inoue, CIAO Referent Councilor, echoing Don Bosco’s words – “Education is a thing of the heart” – said that education is an experience that touches the hearts and personalities of young people. It is not just transmitting knowledge and discipline. She then recalled kintsugi, a Japanese practice which uses liquid gold to join the fragments to repair broken vases, thus making the restored vases more precious. The metaphor makes us reflect on the style of education: many students are hurt by lack of affection, family problems or other negative experiences, but if accompanied and guided with love, they will be able to give a positive meaning to their experiences.
Sr. Mabel Pilar, President of CIAO and Provincial of the FIL Province, invited us to be guided by the words of Pope Francis: “Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; it either enriches or impoverishes; it either makes the person grow or depresses him/her, it can even corrupt him/her. … The school’s mission is to develop a sense of truth, a sense of good, and a sense of beauty. … True education makes us love life, opens us to the fullness of life!” (Discourse to the world of the Italian School – 10 May 2014).