MAS MAGIS 2012

Three Jesuits (James Tan, Jerome Leon and Jojo M. Fung) accompanied sixteen participants who are university students and graduates from Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia. They participated in the second MAGIS MAS programme from July 23 till 30, 2012 in Sabah, East Malaysia, based on the theme God as Sustainer of Creation and Liberator of the suffering migrants. This theme focused on reconciliation with creation and migration, the two priorities of JCAP (Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific). In the first part of MAGIS known as pilgrimage, the participants underwent different experiences which culminated in a weekend Ignatian retreat known as Grand Silence.

The first part called pilgrimage enables the participants to have a lived-experience with the Kadazandusun community of Tampasak village with ample opportunity to engage in an interactive learning with the displaced villagers who are indigenous people (IP) and who were relocated since the commissioning of the state-condoned mega-dam that flooded their ancestral homeland, incurring a lost of land, livelihood and identity. The evening dialogue with the migrant workers from Flores gave them a personal insight of how the employers exploited them as cheap labor. In addition, the sharing of four of the staff of PACOS TRUST, a NGO founded to empower more than 50 villagers throughout Sabah, and subsequent talk on illegal human trafficking enabled the participants to realize how important it is to grow in a faith that does justice on behalf of the displaced IPs, victims of human trafficking and exploited migrants.

The canopy walk and dip at the hot spring in Poring, near Ranau gave the participants a chance to appreciate the gift of God's creation in its magnificence and splendor. The talk on the legends and community involvement in the management of Sabah Park intimated the participants to the sacredness of Mount Kinabalu. Sessions on critical prayerful analysis deepened the participants' awareness of systemic evil otherwise known as structural/social sins and how such evil is related to the personal sin of greed and lust for profit and power. The session on discerning theological reflection gave them the occasion to learn the “skill” of “theologizing” based on a theme that emerged out of their lived-experience.

Upon completion of the pilgrimage, the participants were amply prepared to enter the two-day guided silent retreat. All the participants took to the silence with great generosity of heart. They blessed all those involved in producing the food at meal times and all things that made their retreat possible – from the room to the building and the environment. Besides they were taught the Ignatian method of praying when they actually learnt by doing the guided prayers. The creative and environment-sensitive celebration of the daily Eucharist was a source of great consolation for all the participants. A few of the participants were gifted with “tears” during the mass and guided prayer sessions. Besides the time given to silent reflection and personal prayer of the bible passages and the daily journaling deepened the participants’ awareness of God’s omnipresence as Sacred Spirit in everything and everyone.

Anne Balthazar, a social worker with Youth Link, felt that MAGIS, especially the GRAND SILENCE rejuvenated her spirit as she was experiencing a “burn-out” syndrome.

Yvonne Lim, also recent graduate, remarked that it is so important to have a personal experience of the displaced IPs and migrants so that they do not remain mere issues or news items disseminated by mass media.

“The retreat has made me aware that I am one with creation and that my faith is inseparable from a right relationship with creation and with the migrants,” Romney, a third year university student added.

“This is the best retreat I ever had, including the mass too,” chuckled Nigel, another university student. “I am glad to know that I have a real and intimate relationship with Jesus as I clarified my calling to the priesthood,” Damian a university student from Kuala Lumpur shared, his face beaming with joy.

All the participants descended from the “mountain experience” with gratitude in their hearts, knowing that God has encountered each one of them through fellow human beings and the environment.

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