The Jesuits in Malaysia and Singapore (MAS) held the first MAGIS programme for youth in the region in December 2011.  The MAGIS MAS programme draws its inspiration from the Ignatian term MAGIS which connotes striving to do more in order to render greater glory to God.

The global MAGIS initiative started in 1997 with World Youth Day in Paris. It was called MAGIS for the first time at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne. It was celebrated in Sydney in 2008 and in Madrid in 2011.

Seven youth – four students and 3 young persons already in the workforce – participated in MAGIS MAS 2011.  Themed “Youth for the environment. Youth for the poor”, the programme comprised two parts – a pilgrimage in Sabah from December 10 to 15 and a weekend retreat at the Jesuit Marantha Retreat House, Janda Baik, from December 15 to 18. 

For the pilgrimage, the youth drove to Kinabalu Park, climbed to the foot of Mount Kinabalu and stayed the night at the Bundu Tuhan retreat house. Upon their return, they stayed the night with families in Tampasak Village, experiencing the life of people environmentally displaced when the Babagon Dam submerged their village. 

After leaving the village, the participants heard the testimony of two Catholics working with the NGO Pacos Trust on how their faith sustains them in their work on empowerment of the rural poor.  The youth were also challenged by a presentation on human trafficking and interaction with migrant workers from Flores.  A day was spent on critical analysis and prayerful theological reflection.

The participants were deeply affected by the pilgrimage in Sabah.  Simon shared: “I have learnt to appreciate creation and respect nature as part of God’s creation. I have changed my attitude towards migrants after the evening’s conversation.” Kelvin added “we are God’s creation and we should lend a helping hand to the poor”, and Anthony remarked “I used to think that creation is only about human beings but now I have learnt that everything God has created is sacred and that includes the environment.”

During the weekend retreat, the participants struggled with silence but appreciated it as a way of reaching God and allowing God to speak to them.  The retreat helped Victor to arrive at a few personal decisions: “I will not destroy God’s creation like the plants and animals and I will not pollute the air and water. I will try my best to replant trees in my housing area.”

Naveen said: “I recommend this programme to youth as retreats are important for them to reflect on God’s creation and God’s love.” All the other participants agreed with him.

The next MAGIS MAS will be held in Sabah from July 22 to 29, 2012.

Article was first published on the Jesuit Conference of Asia-Pacific website.