This month marks the 20th anniversary of a Networking for Development conference sponsored by the French Catholic development agency, CCFD-Terre Solidaire, in Bangkok from 21-23 July 2001, which led to the foundation of the Cardijn Community International.
A particularity of CCFD is that it was founded in 1961 by a group of Catholic lay movements, including the French YCW, YCS and other Specialised Catholic Action movements. These movements continue to be members to this day, along with a range of other Catholic lay organisations and services of the Church.
A gathering of several CCFD partners from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar together with several other NGO workers, the aim was to develop cooperation between people and groups involved in development, who followed a similar approach, in particular the Cardijn see-judge-act method of formation.
The conference was hosted by Rungrote Tangsurakit, a Thailand YCW collaborator and Rungtip “Jim” Imrungruang, a former YCS leader, who worked with the Thailand Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Juanito Penequito and Baltazar Pascual, both former YCW leaders, who had launched the Cardijn Development Centre in Manila, represented the Philippines.
Nguyen Tri Dung, a former YCS leader, who had created a textile cooperative providing training and Nguyen Anh Dung, who worked for another silk production cooperative founded by former YCW leaders in Ho Chi Minh City, represented Vietnam
Gregory Mahn Htun, a former IMCS leader from Myanmar, who worked with refugees on the Thai-Burma border, also attended along with a local Karen leader, the late William Aung Win Shwe.
S. Samydorai, a former YCW leader and human rights worker, represented Singapore while Stefan Gigacz, also a former YCW leader from Australia, represented CCFD.
At the end of the conference, a concrete resolution was adopted to create the “Cardijn Liaison Committee” with the objective of further developing the cooperation. Rungrote was elected as convenor.
Young People for Development
One of the first projects adopted was to develop training programs for the many young people from Myanmar living in refugee camps near Maesot on the Thai-Burma border with several workshops organised by Rungrote
In 2002, a group of young leaders from the French Catholic rural youth movement, MRJC, asked CCFD to help arrange an immersion program in Vietnam. Since it was difficult to organise the program in Vietnam, it was decided to organise an immersion and training program for young people in Thailand, that would bring together young people from South East Asian countries.
With the assistance of Fr Niphote, the founder of the Regional Training and Research Centre (RTRC) in Chiang Mai, a three week program was developed with the title “Young People for Development 2003.”
It began with immersion programs in Bangkok, Maesot, Chiang Mai and other areas of northern Thailand. This was followed by a week long “see-judge-act” program at the RTRC Centre.
Sixty-five young people from Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Cambodia and France joined the program, which also led to the formation of the “Young People for Development” (YPD) network.
Since then YPD international training programs continued nearly every year until the outbreak of Covid halted the program in 2020. Meanwhile, a strong Karenland YPD network has developed on both sides of the Thai-Burma border in the area near Maesot.
A second major initiative was the organising of another conference in Bangkok in 2002 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Vatican II with the title “Vatican II in the Age of Globalisation.” With sponsorship from Missio in Germany and the Italian Bishops Conference, this conference also drew over 60 participants from a dozen Asian countries.
Ten years later, CCI held a similar conference in Manila to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. Resolutions adopted at this conference included a call for the launch of the process of canonisation for Cardijn. Thanks to the work of Fr Felix Van Meerbergen this led to the creation of a Cardijn Canonisation Tribunal by the Archdiocese of Brussels in 2014.
A concrete outcome of the Vatican II conferences was the launch of an annual “New Pentecost” program based on Pope John XXIII’s wish for Vatican II to give rise to a “New Pentecost” in the Church and the world.
The first New Pentecost program took place in 2005, with Chico Whitaker, the co-founder of the World Social Forum, who visited Thailand, Australia and New Zealand as part of the program.
Other countries also organised similar programs in subsequent years.
Cardijn Community International
Meanwhile, the original Cardijn Liaison Committee has evolved first into the “Cardijn Lay Community.” In 2006, we adopted the name “Cardijn Community International.”
Since CCI groups, chapters and networks have developed in several countries in the Asia-Pacific region (Thailand, Philippines, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar and Australia) and also in Africa (Zambia, Ivory Coast and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean region).
Vatican II in the Age of Globalisation Conference (Vatican 2+40)