Monday, October 15, 2012


BIS Mumbai                                  







PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA – OCTOBER 15, 2012 :  The Asian Catholic media professionals from nineteen countries gathered at Petaling Jaya (Malaysia) for Signis Asia Assembly, 1-5 October. They discussed the plight of vulnerable communities, especially migrant workers, refugees, trafficked persons, internally-displaced persons and children, in the Asian context.   SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communications.  The word “SIGNIS” is derived from two Latin words, “Signum” meaning sign and “ignis” meaning fire.


"Hosting the Assembly in this country is exceptionally significant because Malaysia is not just the destination of the powerless and vulnerable communities, but also a hub and transit point for the region," the Signis Asia president Mr. Lawrence John from Malaysia.


With the help of contributions from affected individuals, Church bodies, UNICEF, Tenaganita, ACTS (NGO for refugees), KOMAS, the International Labour Organisation, press and broadcast personnel, human rights centres and other similar bodies in the region, the fifty one delegates explored and studies the theme Visibility for the Vulnerable: Refugees, Victims of Human Trafficking & Migrant Workers, with valuable inputs from various stakeholders and collaborators.


Mr Victor P. Karunan, Ph.D, Deputy Representative of UNICEF, Malaysia delivered the keynote address and emphasised the need to collaborate with the government and likeminded persons to give voice to the voiceless.  He spoke of the vulnerable migrant workers and refugees and how UNICEF has started schools for undocumented children by liasoning with the government and the funding partners for a sustainable model which empowers the children through education.   He stressed that every child is born with rights and to live free from fear, safe from violence and protected from abuse and exploitation.


In a statement put out to the media the delegates endorsed that "the existence of vulnerable communities is a reality which is on the rise around the region, and needs to be addressed urgently."


The assembly insisted that "freedom for the vulnerable demands that we have to respect and accept who they are – and not what we normally make them out to be."


The statement further added, "We are aware that the issues concerning the lack of visibility for the vulnerable are major struggles, which need to be highlighted by media professionals and social communicators."


As a practical step the members decided "As Catholic communicators, we accept that our role is not just about disseminating information but also about interacting and advocating. It is not just in telling but it is in doing; it is about collaborating."


The statement called on members to have "the courage of our personal convictions on how far we would go to fight for the vulnerable, regardless of race, creed or gender, without choosing only the groups whom we are comfortable with, but being inclusive of all those who are facing subtle discrimination."


It clarified saying "This means we will engage all media components such as the broadcast, print and new media to provide visibility for the vulnerable through our media education and local works in our respective communities."


By this affirmative action the members hoped "This would affirm and align our works on the social teachings of the Church because religion without compassion and sacrifice is merely ritual and theology without mission is merely dogma."


Puskat Pictures, a member of Signis Indonesia premiered its ambitious feature film project entitled Soegija (pronounced SUKIO). It is an epic historical drama about national hero Albertus Soegijapranata which took Three years and USD 1.2 million production charges. The film was shown in some One Hundred cinema halls across Indonesia for over a month and is being shown in remote villages.


Directed by senior Indonesian director Garin Nugroho the film, starring actors with a diversity of cultural backgrounds had its Asian screening, 4 October during Signis Asia Assembly 2012.

Soegija tells the story of how Jesuit Bishop Albertus Soegijapranata lived in the crucial era in the wake of the Indonesian independence. As a religious leader, he did not lead by commanding an armed unit, rather he used his diplomatic skills to help the infant republic, and by getting involved in humanitarian works for the people,” said the director of Puskat Communication centre and producer of the film Jesuit Fr Y.I. Iswarahadi.

“He was there when the country needed his service the most,” emphasized Fr Iswarahadi.

The film also shows the background and story of the Indonesian nurse Mariyem, Dutch soldier Robert, Dutch war photographer Hendrick and Japanese colonel Nobuzuki, in their own struggle during one of the heaviest periods of Indonesian history.

Though raising the universal aspect of humanity rather than emphasize the religious aspects, this film is about Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) first indigenous bishop Soegijapranata, from his inauguration until the end of Indonesia’s independence war (1940–1949).

This turbulent decade marked by the end of Three Hundred and Fifty years of Dutch occupation, entry and commencement of Japanese occupation of Indonesia, the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, and the return of the Netherlands who tried to get Indonesia back as part of their Dutch Empire, which led to the Indonesian National Revolution.

Bishop Soegija wrote all these events in his diary reflections, and also its participation in relieving the suffering of people in the midst of the chaos of war. He tried to play a role at all levels, local politics, national and international. (For his participation, President Sukarno awarded him with the title of National Hero of Indonesia.)

In the year of faith His Grace Bishop Cornelius Sim, Apostolic Vicariate in Brunei Darussalam released the new book “JESUS THE PRINCE OF PEACE” for First Holy Communion Catechism by Joaquim Fernandes, sdb and Kevin Jairaj published by Tej-Prasarini, Don Bosco Communications.

On the last day the Signis members visited the city of Malacca the place where St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the East, arrived in Malacca in 1545 and served the sick and the children there.

The body of St. Francis Xavier was later shipped to Goa in India, after parts of the relics were stolen or taken by different people. Today, most of his remains still rests in the Basilica of Bom-Jesus in Old Goa. He is the patron of the Indies and is called "the apostle of the East".  Today the place is visited by thousands of faithful what remains is the ramparts but one can experience the culture of the people and the catholic traditions and culture which are still prevalent till date.

























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