Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
As we begin our journey in the year 2011, it is our confidence and prayer that the Spirit of God will continue to strengthen us in responding to the challenges ahead of us. Our theme for Asia Sunday this year, “Make us Healers, o God” is a prayer that hopefully can guide the life and ministry of all CCA members and the implementation of CCA programs coordinated through the Chiang Mai office.
I wrote this letter in Halmahera, one of the islands in North Moluccas province in the eastern part of Indonesia. I attended the General Committee meeting of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) held on February 3-8, 2011. The journey to Halmahera island is a challenging one. It took me many hours with plane, speedboat and cars from Chiang Mai to Tobelo, the venue of the meeting where the headquarters of the Evangelical Christian Church in Halmahera (GMIH) is located. GMIH is a member of PGI, and also of CCA and WCC. Our tiredness was healed by the magnificent expressions of hospitality that we received from the people in Halmahera. The congregations are so enthusiastic in welcoming us. It is an encouraging experience, as the reality of ecumenical fellowship is lived out not only by church leaders, but right in the life of the local churches and people of Halmahera.
It is even more heartening to have received such hospitality from the community that not long ago went under a horrible communal conflict and war which divided the community along religious differences. Violence was everywhere, committed by both Muslim and Christian communities. Community life in its many aspects was stagnant, many people died. On Sunday, February 6, 2011 I preached in the Duma congregation, a village where the first missionary Hendrik van Dijken from the Netherlands (USV, Utrechtsche Zendings Vereeniging) began his work in 1866, and where the first Christian community in this island began.
On December 26, 1999, Christians in that village were attacked by Muslims. Many died. Religious war was unavoidable and it spread in many places. When the situation calmed down people returned to their normal life. A group of Muslim and Christian women who everyday sat together selling different things in the market, took a courageous action. Out of the experience of brokenness they boldly said ’No!’ to war, and committed to move together toward reconciliation. Their bold step inspired the Christian and Muslim communities to express their gestures of reconciliation. When Muslims rebuilt their mosque destroyed during the war, Christians brought a tifa (a huge gong) normally used as a call to prayer. Similarly, when Christians rebuilt their church demolished during the war, the Muslim community brought a bell normally used for a call to worship. Such experience proves that healing and reconciliation are possible when there is a communal commitment to be the healers.
In view of the recent violence in Indonesia, let us remember in our prayers the suffering of the minority religious communities of Ahamdiyah, West Java and Christian churches in Central Java. It is our earnest hope that the government will protect the religious freedom of all people of Indonesia.
From Tobelo, Halmahera, I visited two CCA member churches in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, namely, the Kerapatan Gereja Protestant Minahasa (Fellowship of the Protestant Church in Minahasa), and the Gereja Masehi Injili di Minahasa (GMIM, Evangelical Christian Church in Minahasa).
Two important meetings took place in January 2011 and need to be highlighted.
The first Preparatory Meeting for the Second Encounter of Islamic and Christian Religious Leaders of Asia was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 16 January. Attending from CCA were the CCA General Secretary and Hope Antone (of CCA-FMU). FABC was represented by its Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and two Muslim leaders came from the Philippines and Bangladesh respectively. The group agreed on the proposed theme of the Second Encounter to be held in 2012: “A Common Word Between Us and You – a Tripartite Asian Response: Love of God and Love of Neighbor.” This theme is based on “A Common Word Between Us and You” signed by 138 Muslim scholars in 2007. This Second Encounter follows what was then called the First Asian Bishops-Ulama Conference held in August 2003 in Manila. The name change is a result of the affirmation that the gathering has involved not only bishops and ulamas but also scholars, leaders and lay people from Christian and Islamic communities.
Right after the meeting Dr. Hope Antone and I were able to meet the new leadership of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT). As we all know, CCA is hosted in Thailand by its only member church in this country, the CCT. The new leadership of CCT elected by its Assembly in October 2010 assumed office on January 1, 2011. The new CCT leaders are: Rev. Dr. Boonrat Boayen, Moderator; Rev. Dr. Rung Reungsan-ajin, Vice Moderator; Rev. Sayam Muangsak, General Secretary; and Elder Chusak Wuthiwaropat, Treasurer.
As CCA General Secretary, I was invited to attend and bring greetings to the consultation on “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World, Recommendation for a Code of Conduct” a joint program of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Vatican, held in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 26-28, 2011 This was the third consultation with the aim to produce a document to encourage churches, church councils, and mission agencies to reflect on their current mission practices and to use the recommendations in the document to prepare, where appropriate, their own code of conduct for witness and mission to those of different religions and those wo do not profess any particular religion. It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed.
On February 13 -15, I shall be attending the meeting of the General Secretaries of the Regional Ecumenical Organizations (REO), and to attend to the Assembly of the Ecumenical Coalition of Tourism (ECOT), in Geneva, Switzerland. Afterwards I shall join the Central Committee meeting of the WCC on February 16-17.
There are several important CCA meetings taking place in Chiang Mai on March 3-9, 2011: the Roundtable Meeting with Ecumenical Partners, the Personnel, Finance, Executive and General Committee meetings. These meetings are crucial in determining our organizational direction in this quadrennium. We thus entreat you to uphold us – CCA Officers, General Committee members and Staff in prayers, as we seek God’s guidance and blessing in all our decisions.
Healing and restoration for Kandhamal
The Dalit-Tribal Interface on “Healing and Restoration” was held in Bhubaneshwar on January 17-22, 2011. Highlighted by a Kandhamal day visit, the participants were able to listen to and interact with the people of the Kandhamal from various villages. Bishop of Phulbani Diocese, Bishop Bijay Kumar Nayak, said this interaction was unique. This is the first time that church leaders from different parts of India and from various church denominations and international bodies had the chance to listen to the stories of the Dalit and Tribal communities of the victims of the Kandhamal violence, ever since the violence broke out.
Members of the Council for World Mission, the NCCI-Commission on Tribal and Adivasi, the Presbyterian Church of India and all the participants coming from various Civil Society groups pledged to pursue justice, peace and reconciliation for the victims of gross violence inflicted to the Dalits and Tribals in India and for the community of the Kandhamal in particular. For the full text of the statement issued by the participants, see: http://www.nccindia.in/news/pressrelease/n_207.htm
In October 2010 CCA joined a pastoral delegation to Kandhamal on invitation of NCC India. CCA sent JID Joint Executive Secretary Charlie Ocampo as part of the delegation. He reported that “the victims bemoan the many groups visiting from outside who have listened to their stories and documented their suffering yet very little has been done to ameliorate their broken lives.”
Let us continue working and praying that peace with righteousness will be a reality in Kandhamal soon.
Congratulations to GKPI
CCA conveys its warmest congratulations and felicitations to the new office bearers for 2010 to 2015 of the Gereja Kristen Protestan Indonesia (Christian Protestant Church in Indonesia, one of the CCA member churches in Indonesia. The Rev. Patut Sipahutar was elected bishop, nad Rev. Oloan Pasaribu as its Secretary General.
CCA prays that may God grant the GKPI leadership wisdom to lead, joy and dedication in their commitment, and more love in the service of God and the least of our fellow human beings.
NCC Japan to restructure
Japan’s ecumenical grouping of Anglican and Protestant churches and interdenominational organizations, the National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ) has laid out a proposal for its organizational restructuring by reducing the number of its officials and clarifying its decision-making functions.
“This is really a tentative proposal for a tentative proposal,” said the Rev. Isamu Koshiishi, NCCJ moderator, at its executive council meeting in Tokyo on 25 January. “We would like it to be discussed at the executive council meeting in October for its approval and prepared for the general assembly to be held in March next year.”
The executive council’s official document on the proposal contains three basic policies. The first includes “clarifying the functions, tasks, and responsibilities of the decision-making bodies, the executives, and the secretariat,” and “making the scales of the General Assembly and its subsidiary decision-making bodies appropriate, to make decision-makings prompt and appropriate.”
The policies also propose that the number of general assembly members be reduced to 61 from 114, and that of the executive council to 25 from 41. The third proposes renaming and restructuring decision-making bodies and titles of the council’s leaders by changing the executive council into the board of directors, the general executive council into the permanent board of directors, and the moderator into the board chairperson.
The document also proposes that the general secretary be replaced by the secretary general who heads the secretariat with another full-time and four part-time staff.
The economic downturn in Japan resulted to a decrease in members’ support to NCCJ that consequently reduced its 2011 budget. Koshiishi hopes that “by sharing responsibilities among those [members of the general executive council] who are involved in the NCC in specific activities, we can overcome the (NCCJ’s) budgetary problem.” (with news from Hisashi Yukimoto, ENI)
Rev. Hiroko Ueda, NCCJ Interim Acting General Secretary is a member of the CCA General Committee for 2010 to 2015.
CCA supports NCCJ in all its efforts to be a continuing witness to Christian unity and solidarity with the people of Japan.
AICCW X Quadrennial Assembly held
The 10th Quadrennial Assembly of the All India Council was held in Ashirwad Global Learning Centre in Secunderabad on 20-23 January 2011. A hundred and fifty women form different Church denominations, organizations, and women’s fellowships gathered to talk around the theme “Women: Channels to Challenge for a better World”.
The Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) delivered the assembly message, while Dr. Fulata Moyo, Programme Executive on Women of the World Council of Churches gave the keynote address.
The new office bearers of the AICCW for the quadrennium 2011-2014 are: Mrs. Alpana Kumar, President; Mrs. Sosamma Mathews, Vice President, Mrs. Elizabeth Dhinakaran, Treasurer; Mrs. Suguna Ebenezer, Convener, World Day of Prayer; and Mrs. Elizabeth Joseph, Convener of the Fellowship of the Least Coin. (with reports from Rachael Pradhan)
CCA congratulates the AICCW and conveys its full support to the ecumenical women’s movement in India.
Ministers’ Spouses Association on reproductive health
The Ministers’ Spouses Association of SEMJur (South East Mindanao Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines) elected Ms. Susan Eleano S. Claro as their President on January 15, 2011.
The organisation’s plan for this year is to go into skills training on reproductive health counseling including voluntary confidential counseling HIV (testing can be referred). Ministers’ spouses are close to people particularly church members who may have reproductive health concerns including family planning, sexuality and reproductive tract problems. Ministers’ wives, if given education on reproductive health, counseling, HIV and human sexuality can become effective channels of educating and influencing the discussion of these issues in the various church organizations like the Christian Women’s Association (CWA), United Church Men (UCM) Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) and Christian Young Adult Fellowship (CYAF).
Ms. Susan Claro spoke on Reproductive Health during the CCA Pre-Assembly Forum of People Living with HIV in April 2010, in KL, Malaysia. (with news from Erlinda Senturias)
CCA is glad to note that reproductive health justice, an agenda at the CCA Pre-Assembly Women’s Forum, is becoming also an agenda in the grassroots level of the member churches.
Henriette Hutabarat Lebang