Paris (Agenzia Fides) – To call one’s attention to the memory of the confreres who gave their lives for a mission considered "impossible" for man; to follow the example of their courage and their self-sacrifice to not look at the events only "according to the human perspective "; to consider the growth of the Church in Arunachal Pradesh and the energy of the existing Christian communities in Tibet, as a result of preaching and witness of these missionaries: are the main reasons indicated by Fr. Georges Colomb, Superior General of the Society for Foreign Missions of Paris (FMP) at the base of the exhibition "Missions du Toit du Monde", which will be inaugurated in Paris (128, rue du Bac) on Saturday, September 29, by Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Fernando Filoni.
"It is natural that the first visitor of the exhibition is Cardinal Filoni - explains Fr. Colomb to Fides Agency -. Firstly, because he is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which since eighteenth century, has close, fraternal and constructive links, with the Society of Foreign Missions. In addition, the Cardinal knows the problems of mission in China. With the exception of Arunachal Pradesh, which is in India, all the territories referred to in this exhibit are in the Tibetan region, namely China (Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet)."
Describing to Fides the content of the exhibition, Fr. Colomb points out, "The Mission is presented
like an impossible mission, recalling previous attempts, from the seventeenth century until 1950, and as a decentralized mission on the territory: since its beginning in 1846 until its disappearance in 1952, the Apostolic Vicariate of Tibet, entrusted to the Society for Foreign Missions in Paris, has never encountered a continuous presence within the country. The missionaries settled on the outskirts.
There were four districts in the mission of Eastern Tibet: Tatsienlou and the outlying locations (Moximian, Chapa), the border area of Sichuan (Bathang, Yerkalo, Yaregong); the horn of Yunnan (Tsekou, Cizhong, Weixi, Xiao Weixi); the Salouen (Bahang, Kionatong) and also a district in the mission in southern Tibet (Pedong, Maria-Basti, Kalimpong). Missionaries are presented according to the different periods they lived: the conquerors (1854-1865), those who resisted (1865-1905) and the survivors (1905-1952). " In 1951 all the missionaries were expelled.
The territory of the Tibetan region is dominated by high mountain ranges with an average height of 4,500 meters, with peaks ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 meters. The rugged terrain makes travel particularly dangerous and difficult, and the exhibition also describes how the missionaries crossed mountains and rivers.
"Different ethnic groups (Lisu, Lutse, Mosso) occupy the area between the main rivers - continues Fr. Colomb -. The Tibetans are the majority in the north and west and maintain ties with Central Tibet. The Chinese minority groups are mainly in the cities. In the exhibition lifestyles, political organization, popular beliefs linked to the forces of nature, Tantric Buddhism, the monastic life are presented. The activities of the missionaries (health care, education and human development), as well as those of the auxiliary of the mission,
show how the introduction of an indigenous clergy (FMP priests’ priority ) was difficult to achieve. The only Tibetan priest, Telesphore Hiong, was ordained in 1891. The missionaries of Tibet were also great builders: Father André, in the valley of Salouen built schools and chapels, 300 km of slopes and a 58 m long bridge! The exhibition also presents the Catholic communities in the contemporary Tibetan China – concludes Fr. Colomb - and the mission of Arunachal Pradesh (India) reminds us of the wonderful adventure of two FMP missionaries killed (father Krick and father Bourry) and the fruitfulness of their sacrifice." (SL) (Agenzia Fides 28/09/2012)