The Jesuit outreach to underprivileged young people continued this summer in Kyrgyzstan with great success. A record one hundred and ten youngsters travelled to the centre on Lake Issyk-Kul to attend its fourth annual astronomy camp. With snowcapped peaks to the South and the warm waters of the lake to the North, the setting was idyllic. Accompanied by their physics teachers, the students travelled to Issyk-Kul from Suzak, in Southern Kyrgyzstan. They were supervised in their activities by Father Adam Malinowski SJ, a keen stargazer, who has even constructed his own observatory at the Jesuit centre in Jalal-Abad. Volunteers from Austria, England, France and Germany assisted in making the young astronomers’ stay as enjoyable and educational as possible.
While our mission in this instance did not involve any spiritual activities, since both students and teachers were Muslim, the value of the work carried out was not diminished. In the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, we as Christians are called to engage with and assist all of God’s children. Meetings such as the astronomy camp are opportunities to express God’s love through helping and spending time with non-Christians, while at the same time helping to present a positive picture of a Christian for young people who may never have met one.
In addition to educational camps, our work at Issyk-Kul also involved arranging holidays for disabled, orphaned and very poor children. Some of these are organised yearly in conjunction with Kyrgyz social welfare structures. We are very grateful to all of those who helped us in our mission.