Fr Marco Ribolini is a priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and pastor in Ban Thoet Thai, a remote village in the Diocese of Chiang Rai, north-western Thailand.
For him, the journey from evangelisation to true conversion among tribal people “is long and lasts several generations since Christian values are revolutionary for both religious and social life.”
Local Catholics belong to various ethnic minorities (Akha, Lana, Lahu, Isan, Thaiyai, Kachin), who live in the mountain and rural areas amid poverty as well as social and geographical marginalisation. The four PIME missions in the north of the country – Fang, Ban Thoet Thai, Mae Suay and Ngao – have some hostels to meet the residential and education needs of young people from poor families.
“Ours is still a ‘catechumenal’ church,” Fr Ribolini said. It is based on “first evangelisation and conversions. The geography is complex since Christians live in villages in the forests and far from each other.”
The mission in Ban Thoet Thai alone caters to 27 settlements and offers young people various recreational activities, together with moments of prayer and catechism lessons. This is the case of the ‘Sacraments camp’ that started today involving some 70 kids aged 7 to 12 for four days.
“Through this initiative, we will prepare the children for the sacraments of Christian initiation: baptism, confirmation and the eucharist,” the missionary explained.
“Praying never fails in PIME hostels,” he added. But the mission also takes care of families, who have the opportunity to study catechesis through various programmes.