It was an exciting moment for Saint Paul Institute's team to host the 28th ASEACCU conference from 23-27 August 2022, and SPI was happy to welcome all university members of ASEACCU, more than 180 delegates of both students and faculty from the Philippines, Thailand, China, Australia, Cambodia, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The ASEACCU has 87 members and St. Paul Institute is the only Catholic institute in Cambodia affiliated with it. The 28th ASEACCU conference was a spectacular event for Saint Paul Institute after the conference was postponed in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was the first time that SPI hosted the conference since H.E Bishop Olivier SCHMITTHAEUSLER founded SPI in 2009.
"Even though we cross each other's cultures, we need to remember our own identities," Bishop Oliver Schmitthaeusler, the Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, Founder and Chancellor of Saint Paul Institute said during official opening ceremony. He also, invited the 28th ASEACCU conference participants to work as one team, different specialties collaborating together, exchanging knowledge and experiences, ASEACCU members working together as a Catholic Identity in higher education. We can move forward more effectively in solidarity and communion if we are able to promote higher education both in the Catholic Church and in the society where we work. He also noted that Saint Paul Institute is the only Catholic higher education institution in Cambodia. Following the vision of integral education for each student, SPI has been trying for over 12 years to provide the best quality education to more than 1000 students. "This 28th ASEACCU conference in Cambodia is an amazing occasion to walk together on the path of subsidiarity as a member of one family among Catholic higher education institutions,"The theme "is very important as Cambodian society is trying to rebuild after the Khmer Rouge regime," H.E Bishop Olivier SCHMITTHAEUSLER said.
Mr.Phon Sophal, director of Saint Paul Institute, said during the official opening ceremony on 24th August 2022, the conference would provide opportunities for discussion from diverse institutional and cultural contexts which would be elaborated upon by keynote lecturers and guest speakers from Cambodia, ASEACCU’s members, and IFCU. He also expressed that the conference would provide a unique opportunity for Catholic higher education institutions to form a team to research more deeply on memory and identity in our respective country's regional and global contexts.
Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, OP, the Executive Board Secretary of ASEACCU, said that the 28th ASEACCU conference brought us closer to the scenic spots, sacred temples, and the memorial museums of Cambodia as we were ushered into an experience that would connect us to the history of the Khmer people. Like our Khmer brothers and sisters, he encouraged us to please take this gathering as an occasion to recollect how our own past has taught us valuable lessons and in so doing allowed us to have a broader and richer understanding of the present as we continue to build our common future together.
Dr. HANG CHUON NARON, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport of the Kingdom of Cambodia was very happy to join with all Catholic higher education institutions from Association of Southeast and East Asian Catholic Colleges and Universities (ASEACCU). "The fourth industrial revolution continues to shape the global economy and workforce. We are facing uncertainty over how to prepare youth for a new future of work and for adaptation and adoption of Industry 4.0. The fourth industrial revolution is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another. It is characterized by the confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing to name a few," the Minister said. He also took the opportunity to express his appreciation to the Saint Paul Institute for its contribution to the ensuring of learning for Cambodia students before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister also reminded all the Catholic higher education institutions in ASEACCU to be ready for changing with new technology. He expressed that the world we are living in has become more complex, driven by rapid technological transformation, superpower competition, and acceleration of global issues such as climate change. Our young people must be resilient and ready to face future challenges.
Participants attended talks and join the lecture on the political and historical memory of Cambodia and social development, identities, culture, and social issues in the context of Cambodia and global. For student program on 24th August 2022 were given lecture by Dr. Pong Pheakdey Boramey on "Memory and Identity in the context of Cambodia.", Dr. Kep Bunly on "Memory and social development in the context of Cambodia", Prof Dr. THUY Chanthourn on "Identity and Social Issues in the Context of Cambodia". In the first day of lectures at Saint Paul Institute (SPI) on 25th August 2022 was started by H.E Bishop Olivier SCHMITTHAEUSLER warmly welcoming the delegates with a very brief introduction about Saint Paul Institute's history. Followed by Dr. Prof. Isabel Capeloa Gil, the president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) with the lecture on Memory and Human Dignity. Rev. Professor Stephen Morgan, PhD, Rector of University of Saint Joseph (USJ), focused particularly on national identity. And Rev. Fr. Kang Ingun, SJ, PhD and Ven. Vy Sovechea who talked about Interreligious Dialogue and about Religious Practices in Cambodia.
On the second day of lectures on 26th August 2022 four countries presented their perspectives and thoughts on the world context. Memory and Identity from the Philippine was presented by Prof. Clarence M. Batan, PhD, University of Sato Thomas, Manila, Philippines. Memory and Identity from Australia was presented by Dr. Emmanuel Nathan of Australia Catholic University. Memory and Identity from Thailand was presented by Prof. John Giordano from Assumption University of Thailand. Memory and identity from Japan was presented by Prof. Tetsuo Morishita of Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. Memory and Identity in the world context was presented by Dr. Prof. Isabel Capeloa Gil, the president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) and Rector of Catholic University in Portugal.
In order to better understand this memory and identity, after listening to the presentations, all participants visited some historical places connected with the history of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime: the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21), the Killing Field Museum, and the Kraing Ta Chan Museum. At the Kraing Ta Chan Genocide Museum in Tram Kak District, Takeo Province, participants held an inter-religious service and invited seven pagoda chiefs from Tram Kak District to pray together with the Catholics for all those who died during the Khmer Rouge era, especially those killed in this place. All participants were learned more by explanation about Khmer culture together with the performance of Khmer traditional dancing.
All students and professors attended a closing Mass at St. Peter and Paul Church in Phnom Penh Thmey on 26th August 2022 presided by H.E Bishop Olivier SCHMITTHAEUSLER, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, presiding. Afterwards, all students and professors shared their experiences of the past few days together. The conference concluded with smiles, brotherhood, friendship, solidarity and excellent cooperation, as well as the joy of fraternity. This remarkable result comes from the efforts of the leadership of the staff of the Saint Paul Institute under the direction of Bishop Olivier and collaboration among members of the steering committee of ASEACCU. We are proud for the Cambodian church as well as for Cambodia. This is confirmed by Mr. Phon Sophal, Director of St. Paul Institute.