In many different ways, young people from Laos take part in the pilgrimage of trust. Following the visit by one of the brothers to Ban Kampheng in Champasak Province and to Thaket, a group of young people went to Thailand during Brother Alois’s visit there in November 2007. They took part in the evening at the Cathedral of Bangkok and, before the prayer began, Brother Alois spoke with them on the cathedral forecourt. Thanks to the presence of young people from the neighbouring countries and from other churches who were there with their bishops, this evening was the discovery of prayer that was vaster than what they were used to.
Quite recently, the entire Laotian delegation to the World Youth Days, in Sydney with the Pope, went to pray at Saint James’ Church where Taizé brothers were leading prayer each day with many young people.
After the World Youth Days, one of the brothers went to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Although their leaders were still in Sydney, a prayer had been beautifully prepared at the cathedral by young people who had been to Taizé in previous years. Translations of new songs from Taizé gave fervour to the prayer.
Young people from Laos regularly spend three months in Taizé; this year it is a young man from Thaket.
Years of regular visits
August 2007: After a recent visit to Laos, during a long journey in Asia, one of the brothers shared how good it was to return to this country again, after fifteen years of regular visits. Every year, young adults from Laos spend three months in Taizé. And Laos is closer to us still through the presence in Taizé of two widows who arrived with their many children in 1978, after a visit Brother Roger made to refugee camps in Thailand.
The community was asked to take part in a meeting offering training to young adults in the different dioceses. This particular meeting took place in Ban Kampheng, in Champsak province, part of the Paksé diocese; it brought together nearly 150 young people from 17 villages of the diocese, staying with families living around the church or in dormitories arranged for the event. Although it was the season for planting rice, when young people are expected to help their parents in the fields, the number was surprisingly good. A team of young people, some of whom had been in Taizé in previous years, led sessions on the sacraments;
The meeting was the result of a long, patient effort by a few people, who gave themselves completely so that others could deepen their faith and discover its beauty. The church was decorated by these young leaders and as always the beauty of the setting was an invitation to enter into the prayer. For many, this was a quite new experience. Many stayed on in the church, even when the organizers made moves to close it; everyone was happy to see that so many hearts had been touched.
The next day, the bishop of the diocese came to celebrate the closing Eucharist. This was followed by the important ceremony of Basi, “ties of thread”, which is celebrated at important occasions like a birth or a marriage, a departure or a homecoming. On a tray in the middle of the room, there was a large candle surrounded by banana leaves. Offerings are placed there: fruits, sweets and incense. From this central point are suspended hundreds of small threads of white cotton, looking like a small shrub. The young people were seated all round. Then the oldest man, in this case the village chief, says a long prayer before lighting the candle placed in the middle. The most touching moment is when each person ties a thread around the wrist of another, while praying for that person. These threads that are exchanged are a sign of respect, of friendship, during this celebration that really bonds the community together.
The brother continues: Afterwards, I left for Thaket with the team of young people. As we traveled for almost five hours along the banks of the Mekong, I thought of the great sufferings that have been endured here, and also of the hope that is lived here today. As I looked at the faces of the young people in our little group, I could hear them laughing and joking; they are only a very small group, but they are bearers of a hope, and even if they are unaware of it, they help me to choose to hope.