BosNewsLife – Influential Catholic church officials say the persecution of Christians in some areas as well as Western consumerism are among the main reasons why churches are struggling to recruit new priests across Asia , BosNewsLife established Monday, November 7.
“Praying for priestly and religious vocations daily in the world is a must,” said Chainarong Monthiencichienchai, a leading lay Catholic and vice-chancellor of St. John’s University in Bangkok , who promotes a strong Christian movement in Thailand and other parts of Asia .
“We must also pray that the Lord will always call us in such a way that we can listen to His call,” he told BosNewsLife. Yet that is easier said than done, suggested Regate Ergo Asia, a Catholic Magazine on Vocations.
“It is also important that we do not wait until it is too late for some countries where vocations have zero percent. They realize it but it was already too late,” the magazine commented.
…”We must work harder, because when we have no priests, it means that the alter is empty [and there is] no Mass. When there is no Mass, there is no Eucharist, there is no church,” the magazine added.
However several human rights groups say that because of persecution in several Asian countries it has become increasingly difficult to become a Catholic priest or protestant pastor.
In Communist countries China , Laos and Vietnam ‘underground’ house churches are regularly raided by secret police, report human rights watchdogs such as Christian Freedom International and Voice Of the Martyrs.
In Pakistan and Bangladesh Muslim militant groups attack Christians, while in Sri Lanka and India Buddhist militants sometimes backed by local authorities are known to have attacked churches, Christian human rights activists say. Secular groups, including Amnesty International, have also expressed concern about the trend.
In Burma Christian ethnic minorities are attacked by government forces cooperating with Buddhist guerillas, BosNewsLife established recently. Thailand has been relative stable for Christians, but missionary workers and secret service officials have expressed concern that Muslim extremism in the south may also impact Christian churches.
It is not a climate that encourages young people to become priests, analysts say. Yet there are other obstacles as well, suggested Monthienvichienchai, who also tours different parts of the world to invite others to be missionaries and pray for priests.
“We want to have holy and hard working priests, but we are now living in a different world from 20 to 30 years ago. I think the priest should try to understand that there is a new culture out there. They have competitors, like for instance television, video, internet, computer games in which people want to spend more time that they do not think about the Church anymore,” he said.
Catholic Church representatives BosNewsLife spoke to suggested a lower birth rate in Asian nations have added to the problem. They say parents are less inclined to encourage the few children they have to go into poorly paid full time Christian ministry because they may not be able to provide for them financially when they get old.
However all hope is not lost for the church to attract new priests people, Monthiencichienchai stressed. “I firmly believe that God calls us like in the past. The problem is that the young people, because of the advanced media, may not hear the call of God. I think we should help them to hear the call.”