KOLPING Asia: Regional network as a great opportunity in the pandemic  

On February 2, 2021, the board members and representatives of Asian Kolping Associations (AsiKA) from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Timor-Leste met for the first time for a virtual conference, following up on the last on-site meeting in March 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City and welcoming Dr. Hildegard Hagemann, who will coordinate the network in the upcoming three years from her office in Vietnam. Despite the great opportunities of such a virtual cooperation, there are also, of course, many challenges to face, such as the unstable Internet connection with East Timor which broke down several times. However, indirect communication was made possible thanks to a working connection between Indonesia and Timor-Leste. It was very regrettable and alarming to note that Kolping members from Myanmar were unable to attend the meeting because of an Internet shutdown. AsiKA members kept their brothers and sisters in Myanmar in their prayers.

At this first virtual meeting, delegates discussed how Kolping associations are dealing with the pandemic and learned about current developments in the associations and local churches. On the one hand, all Kolping associations are facing the risk of seeing cohesion between Kolping Families breaking down when there are no activities. On the other hand, Kolping Families regain strength and energy from lived solidarity and find ways and means of communicating with one another and helping people in their immediate surroundings. Staying connected with the international Kolping community via KOLPING INTERNATIONAL in Cologne was and continues to be crucial for them.
Delegates reiterated the strong need for intensive collaboration and advocacy for major issues such as the conclusions from the Laudato Si encyclical and the most pressing question of fair and just working conditions of migrant workers which had already been on AsiKA’s agenda in 2019. The pandemic particularly revealed the vulnerability of migrants and of people working in the informal sector. That is why it is vital for many Kolping members to bring about a transformation of the informal economy into a resistant, sustainable and secure way of earning a livelihood.
At the meeting, delegates decided to have a regular exchange of information and ideas every three months. A steering committee consisting of Father Dr. Maria Soosai, national director of Kolping India, Paulus Parera, Kolping Indonesia and Dr. Hildegard Hagemann will prepare the agenda for the next meeting. AsiKA is confident that it can use the international crisis and turn it into an opportunity for the regional network.