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Northeast Youth welcomes the 10th Successor of Don Bosco

By Iban Mawrie and Michael Makri
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Shillong, Oct. 30. Shillong 30 October: The youths of Shillong on Tuesday welcomed the Major Superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco congregation, Father Angel Artime Fernandez Sdb at St Anthony's Higher Secondary School in Shillong even as they proudly flaunt their diverse cultures through songs and dances.
Father Fernandez, who is on a 5-day visit to the Salesian Province of St. John Paul II, arrived in Shillong on Monday and is expected to visit various Don Bosco run centres in the capital city. He arrived at Guwahati Airport on Saturday and visited the Don Bosco Provincial House in Guwahati, DB Provincial House in Nandannagar in Agartala, Tripura before coming to Shillong.

In Shillong, after his visit to Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Culture (DBCIC) in Mawlai, the Rector Major of the Salestians took part in the youth gathering at St Anthony's HS School, which was also attended by Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad K Sangma, Health Minister, AL Hek, former minister and MDC, Ronnie V Lyngdoh, Diocese Administrator, Fr John Madur, Father Provincial of Shillong Province Paul O Lyngkot, the Council Members, Principal of St Anthony's HS School, Father Anthony Kharkongor besides other priests, teachers and students.
The 10th successor of Don Bosco, Father Fernandez was accorded a warm welcome in Shillong today by the youths of the city. The gathering saw a large number of youths from different faiths and denominations coming together to get a glimpse of the Rector Major of the Salesians. Expressing his happiness to be among the youths, Fr Fernandez said ''Being amidst the youths make me happy; I don't feel alone and I am grateful to be part of the mission to help and serve them.''

Besides, speeches, songs and dances. A book on Drugs authored by Father Michael Makri was released. This was followed by an interactive session with the youth. When asked by one of the students on his choice to become a Salestian, he said that it was only after studying with the Salestians that he realised the joy of being part of the group. ''It struck me because everything they do for us is very impressive. So I got my parents' permission to join the Salestians and during this time, I have discovered three things- One cannot live without God, sense of happiness and the joy of being among young people.''
On LGBTQ AND ATHEISM: Quoting Pope Francis' messages, Fr Fernandez underlined on the importance of respecting one another and not to condemn people for who they are. ''But accepting them does not mean you accept and embrace all their ways of doing things and lifestyles. I always believe in respecting the values that existed between people; the respect that you should have for other religions and the respect for other people who have different choices,'' he said.

He also emphasized on the need to live a life which can serve as an example for others particularly for the youths to follow suit. ''We cannot force anyone to believe in God; it is their choice, what we can only do is to make them see God through our actions and our way of life, to be a testimony and to set a good example; this way the youths can find God,'' he underlined.

On DRUG ADDICTION: Stating that drug addiction is one of the problems that deeply concerns the society, Fr Fernandez said that children get into the habit when they don't have sufficient motivation and when they are lonely. ''What is important for us to do is to come together and to think together to find a solution,'' he said.
The Rector Major also called upon the schools and colleges to get into the habit of listening to the youths. They (youths) need a lot of attention; Teaching is not the only important aspect of education, but the ability to listen and pay attention to the children so as to foster their growth is also of paramount importance, he said.

Earlier, during his speech, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma spoke about his father, Late PA Sangma's association with the Salestians. ''My father was brought up by the Salestians and it was them who shaped his life, who made him who he was. And after what he became in life, it was he (Purno) who guided me in the same principles, to become whatever I could in my life and he will keep on guiding me in the future,'' said Conrad.
Conrad raised the issue of the dismal performances of the students of Garo Hills in the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examination. ''I was reviewing the education system while I was in Garo Hills a week back and was going through the results of the SSLC and was surprised to know that in Garo Hills, the pass percentage of children who passed in SSLC is only 25 percent; another very shocking number that came infront of me was that approximately, 30-40 schools in Garo Hills where hundreds of students appear for exam, the pass percentage was zero percent,'' he said.

This is the kind of situation today that the state and the entire country is facing, he said adding that on the other hand, while looking at how the Salestians run the institutes and the discipline they maintained is impressive. ''I am not trying to compare but it all depends on how we nurture our youths; all our youths have got the same capacity and talents. It is how we shake them and today the Salestians have proved not just here but in the entire world on how they can shake the entire generation and young minds,'' he added.
''We are a very small state with only 33 lakh people also living in a small region with approx 4 crore population; but it is not the number that matters, it is the quality that counts. The 33 lakh people in our state, if you all could come together, to ensure that our students and our youths are disciplined in the right manner and allowed to work towards their passion, I think our state and our region can be one of the best not just in the country but in the world,'' said the chief minister.

Later, the Rector Major struck a musical chord with the youths when he picked up a guitar and started playing and singing two songs in Spanish along with his Secretary Father Horazzio.
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