Dear Ecumenical Friends and Colleagues –
The highlights of the month of October are on the strengthening the wider ecumenical relationship of CCA with other ecumenical organizations. The WCC Assembly Planning Committee (APC) meeting was held in Busan, South Korea on September 26 to October 2, 2011, in Busan International Convention Center, the venue where the WCC Assembly in 2013 will be held. As a member of APC, I participated in this meeting. It was a great opportunity to understand the Korean context and to engage with the leaders of Korean churches and the local organizing committee. The APC provides ample space in the planning of the assembly for the sharing of the Korean cultural and spiritual richness and the experiences of Korean churches in their life and ministry. As this assembly will be held in Asian soil, the importance of the input from Asian contextual theological reflections related to the theme “God, lead us to peace and justice” are highly expected.
The second meeting of the Global Christian Forum (GCF) was held in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia on October 4-7, 2011, under the theme: “Together in Jesus Christ: Empowered by the Holy Spirit.” The meeting was attended by 287 participants with 18 young adults, coming from 65 countries. The highlights of the meeting included regular prayer and worship which reflected a deep hunger for unity in Christ in the midst of a fragmented world and the division among Christian churches. The four days of sharing, discussions, trust building between Christian groups that rarely meet together but as wide and varied as the global Christian faith itself – African Instituted, Anglican, Charismatic, Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Protestant, Roman Catholic and contemplative communities – in an open space, was experienced as a gift of God. In this gathering, CCA was represented by the General Secretary. On the request of the GCF Secretary, Mr. Huibert van Beek, Dr. Liza Lamis, CCA Communications Consultant, supported the communications work of the gcf meeting.
One of the poignant moments of the four days experience was a panel of churches that have experienced healing and reconciliation in Christ. The GCF renewed its commitment as reflected in its final statement: “We know that God’s Spirit draws the body of Christ into unity for the sake of God’s mission in the world. So we commit ourselves to nurture the Global Christian Forum, as the Spirit leads, as witness to God’s saving and transforming love.”
It was encouraged that similar forums take place in the local, national and regional levels. In the final session the Indonesian churches, inspired by their experiences together at the GCF launched the Indonesian Christian Forum which consisted of the Evangelical, Pentecostal, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches as well as the existing ecumenical organization of Indonesian Churches, namely the Communion of Churches in Indonesia. There are some countries in Asia that are having a similar forum such as Malaysia and India.
At the Asia-wide level in 1995 the Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU) was initiated by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). Gradually the Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been invited to participate in the various AMCU programs.
CCA was invited to participate in the Ecumenical Advocacy Coordination meeting which was held in New York, USA, on October 3-4, 2011. Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri, General Secretary of Malaysia Council of Churches and a member of CCA Executive Committee represented CCA in this important meeting. It was organized jointly by the Ecumenical UN Office in New York and ACT Alliance with the purpose to map the advocacy priorities of the participating organizations; explore different possible ways of coordination and cooperation around specific issues and countries by analyzing best practices; and agree on a strategic division of labors and ways of working together at the national, regional and global levels in the coming year(s) around a limited number of countries and/or issues.
I am writing this letter on my way to Malta to attend the meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWC) of the WCC and the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic Church which will be held on November 1-5, 2011. This meeting will be the last of a series which were held since the WCC Porto Allegre Assembly in 2007. It will finalize the documents to be presented to the assembly of each parent bodies – WCC and the RCC – which includes the documents on “Reception” and “The Roots of Ecumenical Spirituality” as well as two papers responding to the issues of “Migrant Workers” and “Youth”.
On my way to Malta, I spent a few days in Europe to visit two of the CCA ecumenical partners, namely: ICCO and Kerk in Actie in Utrecht, the Netherlands and Brot fur Die Welt in Stuttgart, Germany. It was a great opportunity to know each other better, especially to update the changes that have been taking place in each organization, and to renew the commitment for collaboration in addressing common concerns in Asia today.
The various ecumenical activities and collaborations as shared above indicated the new emerging landscape of ecumenical collaboration. The importance of providing space for all was crucial for Christians to be able to respond to the call of the Spirit for the manifestation of unity of the body of Christ. The dramatic challenges that we are facing in the changing world of today requires us to review the way we used to define our ecumenical work. The wall of prejudice, even sometimes hostility within the Christian family are challenged tremendously. It is only the grace of God that enables the churches to come together in humility to repent and reconcile to each other for the common call to proclaim the Gospel.
We continue to remember the many people in Asia who are suffering due to the impact of natural disasters, communal conflicts and wars. We especially pray for the people of Thailand who suffer from prolonged floods that caused many deaths and damages in the country. Let us continue to pray for the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) as they participate in addressing the disaster. We are grateful for the solidarity that has been expressed by some churches in Asia to assist CCT in this ministry. Our prayers are also for the people of WEST Papua in this challenging time as many people fall victims to violent actions. The Rev. Retno Ngapon, one of the CCA presidents, repesented CCA to the 56th anniversary of the Indonesian Christian Church In Tanah Papua (GKI in Tanah Papua) on October 26, 2011, and the general assembly of this church on October 26 – November 3, 2011. Let us uphold the church in TANAH Papua in our prayers so that they be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in their prophetic ministry leading to peace and justice for all.
Henriette Hutabarat Lebang
No more bases in Okinawa and elsewhere
More than 200 church and civil society leaders met at the Okinawa Christian University for the 3rd International Conference of Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution.
The Okinawa people have expressed their opposition to any new base construction in their island after years of suffering from loss sovereignty, native culture and traditional livelihood as a result of the presence of US bases in their island.
Speakers from Okinawa who grew up with the bases, Buddhist monks, Christian leaders, and a Pakistani human rights advocate took turns in enumerating the negative impact of any new base on the lives of the people and the threat they pose for peace and people’s security.
A peace march along the main thoroughfares of Okinawa City was held by the participants carrying banners saying no to wars and yes to peace.
A press conference was held at St Barnabas Anglican Church in Kagurazaka, Tokyo, where nine participants in the Okinawa Conference participated in a panel and 50 people in attendance with press representatives from Ecumenical News International, The Christ Weekly, Christian Shimbun (Newspaper), The Catholic Weekly of Japan and a number of Buddhist media outlets including Bukkyo (Buddhist) Times. The Christ Weekly published a front page article on Oct. 22nd, which covered the gist of the conference, participating organizations and a rundown of the six demands spelled out in the statement.
The third Conference in Okinawa organized by the National Council of Churches in Japan following two Conferences in Tokyo in 2007 and Seoul in 2009.
CCA attend 51st assembly of the Korean Christian Church in Japan
Representing CCA, Charlie Ocampo, CCA Executive Secretary for JID, read CCA greetings at the opening session of the 51st general assembly of the Korean Christian Church in Japan held in Fukuoka on 10th to 12th October.
The Assembly was attended by 127 delegates. Leadership of the Assembly was provided by the Rev. Choi Youngsin, Moderator,. And the Rev. Hong Songwan, General Secretary. There was a visible and strong participation by Korean church leaders from the US.
The Korean Christian Church in Japan (KCCJ) is an active member of the National Council of Churches in Japan (NCCJ).
Human rights advocates attend Training Course in Bangkok
Eleven (11) human rights workers nominated by their respective churches and NCCs from Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Thailand participated in a CCA Human Rights Advocacy Training Course held at the Bangkok Christian Guesthouse in Bangkok’s Silom district from 17th to 21st October 2011.
The training in human rights advocacy featured two sessions on Human Rights and the United Nations, human rights documentation, effective advocacy, country national human rights situations, and two sessions of national and regional preparation of human rights advocacy plans.
Throughout the week of training, Bangkok had been threatened by floodwaters from the Ping River, which had overflowed its banks and many areas outside the business district was flooded. This weather disturbance did not dampen the enthusiasm of the training participants.
The training course was organized by CCA’s Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service team led by Charlie Ocampo and assisted by Kajeerat Dongsuwan, Patyayothai Boontama, and Janejinda Pawadee.
Building HIV Competent Faith Communities and Interfaith Collaboration
This October 2011 two countries held the seminar on Building HIV Competent Churches: Dhaka, Bangladesh facilitated by the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh, October 13-16 and in Siem Reap, Cambodia facilitated by the Kampuchean Christian Council, October 26-30.
In Cambodia, there was an active participation of interfaith communities in Cambodia and in Asia. The Salvation Centre Cambodia (SCC) provided the exposure visit to the work on HIV and AIDS. SCC is funded by EED and works through the network of Buddhist monks and nuns in the communities of Siem Reap, Battambang and Phnom Penh. The Cambodian HIV/AIDS Education and Care and the National AIDS Authority provided information on HIV and AIDS and the situation on the ground. The three organizations committed to support KCC’s education program among KCC member churches. Thirty pastors and lay people from different churches of KCC participated in the seminar. The different interfaith organizations in five countries of Asia (Thailand, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Korea) and the INERELA+ members gave reports on their activities. Two pastors (one woman and one man) living with HIV gave their testimonies and led in the Sunday prayers. Rev. Paddy Noble, a Maori theologian based in Phnom Penh gave the Biblico-Theological reflection focusing on the stories of Centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman. The Bible reflection is a helpful guide in dealing with difficult issues of key affected population and in reflecting on the healing ministry and how Jesus Christ responded to the sick.
In Dhaka, Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar provided the Biblico-Theological Reflection on deconstructing our understanding of God from one strong and mighty to a loving and compassionate God who journeys with people in their suffering. Ms. Keiko Butterworth who participated in the Yangon meeting provided an example of the work of the Catholic Churches in Myanmar in Building HIV Competent Churches. She used the methodology of role play in understanding the responses of people to HIV and AIDS. Dr. Martin Chowdhury provided information on HIV and AIDS. Thirty participants, mostly men attended the meeting in Dhaka. Rev. David Das organized the seminar in Dhaka.
Dr. Erlinda Senturias
CCA HIV and AIDS Consultant