Thursday October 4th, 2012 – 8pm
At The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand
"An Evening with Father Joe: Slum Priest"
Father Joe will talk about his 40 years in Klong Toey and the adults and children behind the stories in his new book, “The Open Gate of Mercy.”
From the Foreign Correspondents Club off Thailand:
Father Joseph Maier, the priest of Klong Toey slum, is a familiar figure in Bangkok and beyond. Since 1967 Father Joe has lived among the poorest of the poor in Thailand and Laos, and since 1972 he has served as the Parish Priest to the Catholic community in the slaughterhouse neighborhood in Klong Toey, Bangkok, which is how he became known as "The Slaughterhouse Priest."
In 1973 Father Joe joined Sister Maria Chantavarodom to start the Human Development Foundation (HDF) in Klong Toey, better known as the Mercy Centre, a community-based organization dedicated to strengthening the poorest slum communities of all religions and protecting and educating their most vulnerable children.
Father Joe's work and dedication to the poor has been widely recognized. In 1989 the National Housing Authority of Thailand recognized HDF housing as provider of model homes for low-income communities throughout Thailand - a series of designs have been emulated throughout Thai provinces to this day. In 1997 UN-ESCAP named HDF the best NGO in 41 Asian nations, based on the quality and sustainability of HDF programs and their positive impact on the community. In 2009 Father Joe was named the Child Protection Ambassador to Thailand by the Thai Government, and earlier this year was honored by the National Human Rights Commission as a national hero who stands up and fights for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves.
But Father Joe cares little for accolades. He cares about the people he has shared most of his life with, whom he calls his neighbors and friends, and his children.
School-aged children trying to sell flower garlands we ignore when we are stuck in our car in Bangkok's traffic jams. Old women and men hastily pushing their junk carts trying to quickly cross a busy road. Street vendors who sell us fruits, lunches, snacks, t-shirts, knick-knacks, etc. Who are they? Where do they come from? What are their families like? What happiness, sorrows, hopes or fears occupy them in their lives?
The answers to these questions most of us are blissfully unaware. This evening Father Joe will share some of their stories. Always with love and respect, he shows us that in spite of a life devoid of privilege, everyone possesses an inner dignity.
Father Joe has shared many such stories in the Bangkok Post over the past many years. Now these stories have been collected and published in a book entitled The Open Gate of Mercy: Stories from Bangkok's Klong Toey Slum. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event.
Members: No cover charge, buffet dinner is 350 baht Cover charge for non-members: 300 Baht, Buffet dinner: 350 Baht, for members and non-members alike.