Spirituality and Resilience
Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, 19th – 23rd July, 2010
The 10th International Conference on Children’s Spirituality was hosted by the Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, on the 19th to 23rd July, 2010. The theme of the conference was be “Spirituality and Resilience”.
The thoughts of Nestor Briceno (Venezuela)
When I chose children’s spirituality as the subject of my doctoral dissertation, I never thought that it would take me so far away, both in my own spirituality and in travel around the world. I had not known all the wonderful work that is being done from so many places, in so many cultures and with so many different religious perspectives in order to understand the meaning of spirituality.
In 2009, when I personally met the International Association of Children’s Spirituality at the 9th Conference, I discovered that each theme not only proposed a lot of meaning for my work as a Catholic Priest with children, but also for my own spirituality. In 2010 the occasion was really special: to reflect about Children Spirituality and Resilience. There came a real warning about the suffering of our children and it was acknowledged that sometimes this can only be relieved by finding hope on a committed spiritual path.
It took more than 24 hours to fly from my home in Venezuela to Hong Kong, but it was not spare time. During my very long flights and connections, my mind and spirit wandered to find a different world. In my heart I was reflecting on the sad experience of some children suffering home violence and the answer of hope given (and lived) from their religious and spiritual aim. I knew that I would find a lot of experiences that would give me new ideas for answering all the challenges of my pastoral work. And so it did.
The first day, on July 19th, finding every detail in order at the Tai Po Campus of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, delegates met each other to begin informal sharing. People from all around the world started to talk about their research, work and the impressions of this beautiful place. The Keynote Speeches gave us the wider themes for the reflection whilst the parallel presentations focused us into local contexts. Each day, from July 19th to 23rd 2010, we had a Keynote Speech with some surprises for everyone. Professor Sam Shu-Shu NG and his assistants taught us the importance of the picture books and their stories for teaching children the values for Life Education. To listen to those stories in a foreign language such as mandarin also taught us that to tell stories is more than just to read a book; it is to give life to the story with the whole person. The second Keynote Speech by Professor Bernard Hung Kay LUK, now a professor in Canada, started with his own experience and was about the urgent duty of taking seriously spiritual education as a matter that must go across the Curriculum. Professor Bernard gave us some ideas about the implementation of spiritual education, preparing teachers and students to face the post-modern culture and its spiritual misunderstandings. Professor Annemie Dillen took the responsibility of clarifying the main theme of the Conference in her Keynote Speech ‘Resiliency of Children and Spirituality: a Practical Theological Reflection’. Giving a Christian faith context for the term resilience, Professor Dillen correlated this with spirituality, grace and the hope of resurrection. She also gave us some practical tips so that we too can become companions on the spiritual journey for children in resilience processes.
Professor John Fisher closed the Keynote Speeches. His title was “What research says about spirituality and resilience”. Fisher did an overview of studies on the subject and related them to his own spiritual health and well-being scheme. To make a quantitative measure of resilience in the spirituality of children, Fisher explained how to apply the Spiritual Health And Life-Orientation Measure (SHALOM). Fisher related the term “improving resilience” to “spiritual well-being” and provided challenges for both researchers and pastoral workers. In this conference, we can say that the visions that were shared from all over the world enriched each other. There were experiences shared from Asia (Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, Japan and South Corea), Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), Europe (Great Britain, Norway, Germany, Belgium and Holland) and America (Canada and Venezuela).
We had two wonderful tours: the Conference Tour and the Chinese Culture Heritage Tour. In the first one we visited St. John’s Cathedral and The Hong Kong Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Both are beautiful churches with interesting stories to share about the Christian spiritual development of Hong Kong. In the afternoon we finished with a seminar on Christian Religious Education, where we heard how schools and catechesis groups work on the island.
The Chinese Culture Heritage Tour was a real encounter with Buddhist tradition. The nature, the big Buddha, the Wisdom Path and, of course, the vegetarian food were all experiences that opened the mind and heart to this culture which was new for occidental visitors. The generosity was great at the moment of each meal. New tastes from all over Asia were provided by our hosts. Someone once said a cheerful spirit is the product of a good meal. If that is true, then the joy of our meeting was always enhanced by excellent food. But beyond that, I’m sure our joy and enthusiasm came from the fact of knowing that we were together in the task of seeking a harmonious growth for our children, with spirituality as the essential factor.
Thank you Professors Pin Ho WONG and (Elsa) LAU Ngar Sze and all the students that were committed with the success of the 10th Encounter of Children’s Spirituality.