A joint Catholic-Orthodox summer camp for young people in Kazakhstan
Thanks to the support of our donors, this year ACN was able to help sponsor a joint Catholic-Orthodox summer camp for young people in Kazakhstan!
With an area of over one million square miles, Kazakhstan is nearly a quarter of the size of the United States. Yet in all this vast area, there are just 15 million inhabitants. This country of mountains, steppes and desert, between Russia, China and the Caspian Sea, plays a key role within Central Asia in the export of primary raw materials. Kazakhstan is one of the richest nations in natural resources in the world, with huge reserves of coal, iron and copper, while vast oil and natural gas reserves lie close to the Caspian Sea. Yet, despite this wealth of resources, there is still great poverty among the ordinary population.
At the same time, many people still feel the burden of the country's bloody past during the era of the Stalinist deportations. From 1941 onwards, the country became like one vast prison camp, with numerous labor camps, where many Catholic priests worked courageously underground to serve the people.
Even to this day, the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan has to battle all kinds of difficulties. Everywhere there is evidence of drug addiction, violence, abandoned children and dire poverty. While hope in a better future is fading in some regions, many people are seeking strength in the Church. In Kazakhstan this generally means the Orthodox Church (some 44%) but there are also a considerable number of Catholics (close to 2%) among the population. The pastoral and social challenges in an increasingly secularized world are the same in either case.
But two priests want to make a difference. Catholic priest, Father Józef Trela, who has been working in Kazakhstan since 1997, and Orthodox priest, Father Aleksandr Merinov, decided to bring together approximately 30 young people from their respective parishes for a summer camp in Urdzhar from August 3-10 this year. The idea was for the young people to get to know one another, to learn something about each other's faiths and at the same time learn something about history. Joint liturgies and joint prayer will help strengthen the new friendships.
Undoubtedly this meeting will bear rich fruit, but without our help, it could not have taken place. As far as possible, and where necessary with the help of their parish communities, the young people themselves strove to cover their own travel costs, but extra money was still needed for food and other materials.
ACN promised a contribution of $2,042, and through the generosity of our donors, we were able to fulfill that promise so that young people in Kazakhstan could grow in their Christian faith this summer!
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