Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Origami Bridges

On Saturday, a group of six Japanese from a branch of the YMCA in Japan came to the Philippines for a week. They have been visiting Dagat-dagatan and Tala Leprosarium, as guests of the Dominican Justice & Peace group, of which Fr Allan Lopez, OP is in charge. You may recall that Fr Allan is the parish priest of San Lorenzo Ruiz parish in Dagat-dagatan.

The objective of the visit is mainly to build ties between young Filipinos and the Japanese, to allow for inter-cultural interaction and hopefully, a fruitful exchange of views and dialogue. It is also a chance for the Japanese to really encounter poverty as a reality and not just a concept; a wonderful opportunity and impetus for personal growth and awareness of the complex issues surrounding global poverty. There was also some community service work, visiting of slums and there will be a chance for discussion and perhaps plans for the future. It is hoped that from this week will come opportunities for collaborative projects to help the two Filipino communities. But what is important is that from this 'exposure' and in this interaction, both peoples benefit, grow and glimpse new vantage points and horizons. The objectives of the Dominican Volunteers International, of which I was a participant, is similar and I feel I benefitted immensely from my 12 months in Manila.

The Philippines, being quite geographically close to Japan has long looked towards the Japanese nation and is familiar with its popular culture, so the interaction came quite easily. I watched them play basketball together, discussing the various basketball stars in their respective countries, they sang Japanese songs and shared stories and recipes. It was quite lovely to see and be a part of.

Nevertheless, there are still differences (not least in language) between the countries and there is a certain joy and excitement in discovering a different culture and meeting people from a different country. I believe it is one of the joys in life: sampling the diversity of human existence but delighting in all that holds us in common, as people, as children of one God.

On Monday, I watched with happiness as the Japanese taught us their wonderful art of origami. It's amazing how something as simple as that helps to bring people together. There was no real need for words in communicating - just laughter, smiles, songs and dances. And the origami exercise was a real cultural exchange as the Filipinos learnt this intricate and typically Japanese artform and later, these origami figures were given to the poor children we visited working in the fishport. Simple gestures, mere paper toys but real bridges were built... How wonderful if more bridges could be built in our world between peoples using something as simple as origami!

Imagine: Jew and Palestinian, Iraqi and American, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland etc putting aside differences and coming across the fence to experience life on the other side, to live and interact with the other culture, to see what unites us as human beings - laughter, tears, songs, games, dances and simple pleasures. In this area the youth can and should lead the way... because they are generally more open to new experiences, to learning from others and the future is theirs to mould. I believe this is part of the vision of World Youth Day; building bridges between cultures as we unite ourselves in Christ around His Vicar, the Pope.

So long as the foreigner remains different and is held at a distance as a stranger, there can be no reconciliation and growth but if we take the risk to experience, live and embrace another culture and share our own lives with the other, we become friends and no longer strangers. The tragedy of the recent bombings in London is that it was perpetrated by people who were British in citizenship but who were still aliens, strangers in their own land; the bridges had not been built between the 'ethnic' groups in Britain and the mainstream, 'white' culture.

This week gives me much reason to rejoice for in the friendships that I see developing between the youth of Dagat-dagatan and Tala and our young Japanese guests, I see bridges being built between cultures, between the poor and the richer, between Christians and non-Christians, as we learn to simply celebrate together the experiences and humanity that we share and above all a common desire for peace, harmony and inter-personal happiness.


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