How to Engage the Modern World in Missions and How to Use Modern Technologies for Missions – a 50th Anniversary Lecture on the Pallottine Secretariat of Mission

International debate “Are we able to involve the modern world in the missions?” and the conference “Man and Technology: Ethical Narrative. New technologies (AI, NFT) in the promotion of missions” were the points of the conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Pallottine Secretariat for Missions. It took place under the slogan “From beneficiary to partner” in the house of the archbishops of Warsaw. The event was organized by the Secretariat of the Pallottine Mission.

In the round table “Are we able to involve the modern world in the missions?” Toni Zender (responsible for the African section at Kirche in Not), Christine Parzer (general manager of Miva Austria), Fr. Stanisław Filipek SAC (missionary) and Fr. Jerzy Limanówka SAC (secretary for the Missions of Christ the King Pallottine Province).

At the start of the discussion, participants reflected on the impact of secularization in Europe on missions and fundraising.

Christine Parzer underlined that in Austria, as in Poland, there are departures from the Church, but her differences in perception of the missions and the missionaries seem more important. She noticed that in Poland the missions are a grassroots movement, we have many missionaries around the world, volunteers and organizations. In Austria, however, there are several missionaries. “At Miva Austria, we cooperate more than 90%. with local missionaries, not Austrian missionaries, that’s the difference,” she pointed out.

She pointed out that the subject of mission, and even the word “mission” itself, is viewed negatively in Austria due to its complicated history. “That’s why we need to educate about what missionary work looks like today – that is, activation, social life, health care. And that these are activities carried out mainly by the Catholic Church, and not by the governments of, for example, African countries, she said.

Tony Zender said the situation in Austria and Germany is similar. “It’s hard to get the message across about the importance of missionary work. Many who stop practicing find it difficult to understand why they should get involved in a matter that they do not spiritually understand. Fundraising, on the other hand, focuses on development issues that are easier for society to imagine – funding a well, a school, a hospital. But when we move on to pastoral matters – formation of priests, retreats, houses of formation, these subjects are difficult to explain, and with this we must turn to intra-ecclesial groups to support missionaries – clergy and laity – who want pursue their vocation, for example in Africa.”

Prof. Stanisław Filipiak agreed that today it is increasingly difficult for people to understand the need to support missions in the context of pastoral ministry. Prof. Jerzy Limanówka drew attention to the potential of volunteering. “Preparation, departure and return to the country, these are the three stages of a volunteer. The third stage is important because here the volunteers testify to their commitment, their needs, what this time has brought them and they can interest others, exchange experiences” – he said. Christine Parzer stated that sending volunteers on missions is not a practice at MIVA Austria.

– It is worth promoting volunteering in order to have experienced animators on site, but also to have professional collaborators on site – Fr. Philippiak said. He gave the example of the construction of a printing press and a printing school where the professionalism of the volunteers was essential.

Participants in the discussion also wondered if nonbelievers could go on missions. Prof. Filipiak said openness and tolerance are needed. “If someone wants to work with us, let’s not focus on the differences. Many friends who supported us missionally disagreed with the Church. It is also an opportunity for evangelization – he underlined.

Pr. Limanówka, stating that in his organization, the missionary nature of volunteering is strongly emphasized. He noticed that people interested in social work have many other possibilities. He also moved away from treating missions as a form of evangelizing unbelieving volunteers.

The next element of the conference was a lecture by Łukasz Marek Fiem, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Polish Foundation for Fantastic Science. He spoke on the theme “Man and technology: the ethical narrative”. New technologies (AI, NFT) in the promotion of the mission”.

He discussed man’s evolutionary and technological place in the world as a species that dominated the planet by first adapting to different conditions and then adapting the planet to itself. “What distinguishes a human being is intelligence, reason, the ability to overcome barriers, creativity” – he stressed.

Fiema briefly covered the history of technological development, up to modern computers and the Internet. He also pointed out the dangers of progress when science and technology are used against humanity. He cited the atomic bomb as an example.

– The fourth industrial revolution is underway, the digital revolution. It is defined by the fact that we are surrounded by devices equipped with integrated circuits, the Internet of things that communicate with each other. The world is changing dynamically. For example, self-learning algorithms await us. Another sign of the fourth revolution is multimedia – he said.

While discussing possible future technological developments, he drew attention to virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and tokens. He highlighted the application of these possibilities in education, medicine, design, communication, entertainment, etc.

When discussing the topic of artificial intelligence, he emphasized that intelligence should not be confused with consciousness. He stressed the need for legal regulation, as this also poses a threat to humanity. Listing the positive applications, he highlighted assistant support, data organization and translations.

– Despite technological innovations, there is always a man inside who decides how they work. They are tools and it is up to us to decide whether we use them for ruin or for the good of all humanity – he said and expressed his conviction that missionary activity will also find a field of use of new technological achievements.

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