Tokyo, December, 4th, 2017 (Catherine Wong/SIGNIS Asia). In response to the deeply concern on “Family” by our Holy Father Pope Francis, a 2-day conference with the theme “Family and Stories of Hope” was held in Tokyo, Japan. Around 40 scholars and professionals from East Asia countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Macau and Taiwan) joined the event organized by SIGNIS Japan.

The East Asian conference was officially kicked off by the welcome video remarks from Bishop James Kazuo Koda, Auxiliary Bishop of Tokyo Archdiocese. In his keynote speech, Fr. Masahide Haresaku (advisor of SIGNIS Japan) introduced the creation of “Evangelic families” that are bonded by God: people without blood-relation gather together under the name of Jesus Christ, to pray, help and share with one and others. A family built with love, trust and honesty. It is truly stories of hope in the modern society.

Delegates of each country presented its unique cases of family and hope found in the contemporary metropolis. In Hong Kong, the number of newly-weds for the past 5 years  kept on decreasing, and the number of marriages registered at the Church is even less. Catherine Wong, producer of Hong Kong Diocesan Audio Visual Centre presented the latest DVD series named The Marriage Vow & Covenant in response to the phenomenon. 

As for Korea, the veteran radio producer Francis Kim illustrated “Hope” by a radio program recorded by a visually impaired father who celebrates Christmas with his son. The program captures the precious moments between the father and son, and it demonstrates true love is beyond boundaries and able to overcome any physical impairment.

Dr. Filomena Chow, Secretary General of the Macau Catholic Family Advisory Council presented a case of a couple who seeks for therapy at the agency. In Taiwan, the family service unit of Divine World Missionaries offer similar counseling service for married couples. Apart from that, Fr. James Huang, the director of the unit further explained activities and courses that have been organized in order to promote family and marital life. Video programs have been made, together with bible scripture to encourage dialogue and mutual understanding.

Japan, the conference hosting country, is also entering into an aging society with low birth rate. Itaru Tsuchiya, President of SIGNIS Japan presented the latest statistics that in 2025, over 1/3 of the total population is over 65 years old. The working environment is harsh as working hours become longer but wages remain the same. It affects family lives as both members of the couple need to get a job rather than the wives stay home in order to sustain the family expenses. The suicide rate of the youth is relatively high, cases of bullying, discrimination and harassment are severed.

Following the conference, the Japanese documentary ‘Welcome to Sato’ was screened. The film depicts the development of a ‘Sato’ (a home for children) and its accumulative effect in the local community through the years.

The second day, in the plenary discussion, with Dr. Magimai Pragasam as moderator, action plans were formed for sharing the stories of Hope in respective countries. As East Asia is advanced in the aspects of communication technology, smartphone applications and internet are considered as popular platforms to spread the uplifting news. Other potential medium includes organizing filmshows regularly in the community theatre, or participate in film festivals in order to reach the general public.

The 5th SIGNIS East Asian conference was sponsored by SIGNIS ASIA, organized by SIGNIS Japan. It is considered as a continuous project, provides a platform for East Asian members to share and to discuss on topics of common interest.