Bernardo M. Villegas
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Defining Evangelization in Non-Christian Cultures (Part II)

           Without underestimating the value of the work of priests and religious who do missionary work in non-Christian territories, in today's secularized environment the role of the laity in the new evangelization is indispensable.  Whether as natives or expatriates (such as Overseas Filipino Workers), lay Christians can do much to spread the Gospel of Christ through the witness of their lives.  As Pope Paul VI explained in the same document, ""This proclamation must be made above all else by witness.  We envisage, therefore, a Christian or a group of Christians as people who, in the midst of the community in which they live, will show that they are capable of understanding and accepting others and of cooperating with all those who are seeking to protect what is noble and good.  We envisage them radiating simply and spontaneously their faith in values which transcend common values and their hope in things which are not seen and of which even the boldest mind cannot form an image.  By bearing such silent witness these Christians will inevitably arouse a spirit of enquiry in those who see their way of life.  Why are they like this?  Why do they live in this way?  Why are they among us?  Witness of this kind constitutes in itself a proclamation of the good news, silent, but strong and effective."

          Whether they be in predominantly Muslim cities like Jakarta or Doha; or Buddhist cities like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh; or Confucian societies in Shanghai or Taipei, Christian lay people can be very active in the new evangelization.  In fact, their witness can be equally important, as in the case of OFWs, in formerly Christian environments such as those in Europe in which numerous Christians are no longer practising their faith:  "Witness"  is the first step in the work of evangelization.  "Through the witness of Christian lay people, the first question may be aroused in the minds of many non-Christians, whether they be men to whom Christ has never been preached or those who, although, baptized, are not practising their religion, or those who are living in a Christian community but whose own lives are in no way Christian, or, finally men who are painfully seeking something or 'someone' whose existence they divine but whom they cannot identify." 

          These colleagues of mind scattered all over non-Christian Asia and the OFWs in more than 200 countries all over the world  are the very people that Pope Paul VI had in mind when he wrote:  "Other questions, deeper and more important, will arise which will be evoked by this witness, but it must involve actual presence, social intercourse and cooperation.  This witness is an essential element and often the initial element in the work of evangelization.  All Christians are called to bear this witness and in this way they can be true evangelizers.  We are thinking especially of the duty and responsibility of migrants to those countries which receive them."  I am glad that global Filipinos have discovered another very important role they have in the evangelization of non-Christian cultures by just serving as witnesses of what it means to be another Christ and Christ Himself in the midst of a non-Christian environment. In addition, OFWS can also contribute to the re-evangelization of Europe.  For comments, my email address is