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On this World Day of Prayer, we reflect on Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month: “That Christians in Asia, bearing witness to the Gospel in word and deed, may promote dialogue, peace, and mutual understanding, especially with those of other religions.”
Asia’s population is larger than all other continents put together. However, Christians remain a small minority. Most Asian societies have a deep religiosity and strong moral traditions. Here are a few examples of the situations that Asian Christians currently live in.
The Philippines with a Christian majority have become “ambassadors for Christ” in the world. Christians in Vietnam face political persecution yet vocations to the priesthood and religious life flourish there. Christians in China and North Korea face a more violent persecution by the political authorities. In India, Indonesia and Malaysia, Christians face tensions from either Hindu or Muslim extremists.
By and large these Christians are able to witness to Christ’s compassion and justice in relative peace and harmony. However in Pakistan and Bangladesh, tensions are even more severe and a peaceful religious co-existence is difficult.
In all these countries, the Christian communities are constant witnesses to mutual love and re-spect, promoting a society of peace and tolerance. Let us pray for them this month that they will persevere in their efforts.
- Ashely Evans SJ is an Irish Jesuit working in Cambodia.