Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meaning of the New Evangelization

The difficulties now being experienced in Korea because of the increased presence of foreign workers, interracial marriages, and the school-related problems faced by the children of these marriages, which has resulted in prejudice throughout the country, has gone all the way to the UN, says the priest-columnist writing for the Catholic Times. Korea once took pride in considering itself a homogeneous  people. "The white-clad folks, the unsullied virgin" was our thinking in the past. Today we are in a time where harmony and communication are seen as indispensable ingredients for creating a peaceful world, and the elitist attitudes of the past are seen as stumbling blocks in creating such a world.

The United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has pointed out that Korea has encouraged a belief in the superiority of their culture based on racial discrimination: "purity of blood" beliefs, using words such as  "mixed blood children," and similar derogatory descriptions, that have worsened social conditions within the country. The columnist wants us to now face the problems we have created by our prejudicial attitudes by emphasizing the need for better communication, using the example of people who have come to Korea from other cultures. 

There is little difficulty understanding how children of interracial marriages feel when they hear "mixed blood" and similar words.  There needs to be openness and magnanimity when relating with persons of another culture, he says, particularly when the culture and language is not easy to assimilate, as is the case with Korean. Understanding this simple fact will go a long way toward better communication with those who are struggling with the culture. 

The priest mentions the efforts that have been made to translate the words of Scripture correctly so that we, centuries removed, can understand them.  This requires that the translators know the culture of Jesus' time and the meaning they understood by the words they used; it's an important task.

The world continues to change and seemingly at an ever quicker pace, and new ways of communicating must be found if we are to achieve the peaceful world we all would like. This is especially true if we want to present the teachings of Christ to our generation. Pope John Paul II wanted  to achieve this goal with a new way of delivering the message: which he called the new evangelization. The message is the same, the way we expound it will be different.

If we do not know the young people in our society, we will fail to reach them, no matter how hard we try to communicate with them. It is imperative that we understand the typical mindset of the young and what they hold important if we want to communicate with them.

In the first chapters of Genesis, we read that there has been a confusion of languages and a failure to communicate because of sin. It exists everywhere and perhaps most disconcertingly in our families, where we often don't take the time to uncover the root cause of the problem.  We have been taught to listen and obey our elders, which is a beautiful part of  our culture but no one pays attention to this "old way" anymore. In today's society, the inter-generational divide between the young and the old is looming larger than ever before. If we think we can continue to transmit the message of the gospel as in the past, we will fail.

One of the biggest problems in transmitting the message is the reliance on an older, previously successful authoritarian attitude that no longer speaks to the young. The attitude that pervaded the Second Vatican Council was to open up to newer methods of communication to achieve peace and harmony among all people. To continue the old way of communicating is to go counter to the teachings of Vatican II and against what we mean by evangelization for our times.