Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ –
Greetings of Peace from the CCA office in Chiang Mai!
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.
Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home!
God has been our refuge and succor as we help rebuild lives and homes in Japan after the tsunami. And we still witness how God moves us to uphold one another. CCA is elated that the North East Asia Churches Forum have taken the initiative to invite the wider ecumenical family to respond to the urgent need to help Japan recover. A meeting was held at the Christian Academy in Seoul, Korea, on May 6-7, 2011, hosted by the National Council of Churches in Korea. The Statement of the meeting participants is posted in the CCA website (www.cca.org.hk, under JID section).
In the meantime, we still hear more news about more calamities that have happened in various places around the world recently – quakes in Auckland and Spain, floods along the Mississippi River in the USA demolishing many properties and even threatening lives, drought in parts of China destroying farmers’ crops.
We are also greatly concerned with the growing tension between Cambodia and Thailand on border issues, the conflict and civil war in some Middle East countries as they struggle to find their way to democracy, and the fragile political situation in Nepal where the on-going peace process is in danger of breaking down.
Let us bring all these concerns to prayer. We specially pray for the churches in the Middle East particularly in Egypt in relation to the recent burning of a Christian church. We also remember and pray for one of our member churches, the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iran in the midst of the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.
Assembly of the Women Fellowship of GKPS
The Assembly of the Women Fellowship of the Simalungun Christian Protestant Church or Gereja Kristen Protestant Simalungun (GKPS), one of the 21 CCA member churches in Indonesia, took place in Jakarta on 8-10 April 2011. The GKPS headquarters is in Pematang Siantar, North Sumatera, the area where CCA was born in 1957.
For the first time the Women Fellowship of GKPS held a huge assembly attended by around 600 women. Many of the participants came from North Sumatera where majority of the congregations are located. For many of them this was their first visit Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.
I was invited to deliver a keynote speech at the opening of the Assembly under the theme “The Challenges of the Church in a Changing Situation of Indonesia and the Role of Women.” It was a great opportunity for me to introduce CCA as a fellowship of Asian churches to church women from the local congregations. Many of them heard about CCA for the first time. I was grateful to the organizer who took care of my accommodations and paid my travel to Indonesia. I was able to meet and discuss common concerns with the synod of the GKPS under the leadership of Bishop Rev. Dr. Jaharianson Saragih. The idea of a CCA team visit to North Sumatera in the near future was warmly welcomed.
I then took the opportunity to visit the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and two other member churches located in Jakarta. In the evening of 8 April, Rev. Retno Ngapon, one of the CCA Presidents and my self met the PGI officers, namely: Mrs. Ruth Kadarmanto (Chairperson); Rev. Gomar Gultom (General Secretary); and Rev. Kumala Setiabrata (Treasurer). We shared on the common concerns among members of the CCA family including the financial challenges faced by CCA, and the need for member churches and councils to support the life and ministry of CCA. We also discussed the possible increase in financial support from PGI. Rev. Ngapon and I were so grateful that they responded positively to the challenge and agreed to organize a fund raising activity in Indonesia on behalf of CCA.
On 11 April, Rev. Retno Ngapon, Rev. Citra Timur Sari, a member of the CCA Program Area Committee of Justice, International Affairs and Development and Service (JID), and I visited the headquarters of Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI, Christian Church in Indonesia) and Gereja Protestant di Indonesia Bagian Barat (GPIB, Protestant Church in West Indonesia). Both churches responded positively to our request to kindly increase their annual contributions to CCA. These visits have been an enriching experience for us as we were able to know better the situation and challenges faced by our constituents.
I am particularly grateful that the present CCA leadership from Indonesia (Rev. Gomar Gultom, member of the General Committee, Rev. Citra Timur Sari, member of PAC-JID and Rev. Retno Ngapon) graciously joined me in representing CCA and in sharing its concerns to member churches and councils in Indonesia.
The Rev. Mangisi Simorangkir, a PAC member of the Faith, Mission and Unity is now attending the Basic Ecumenical Course held at Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta, organized jointly by CCA-FMU and PGI on 2-15 May, 2011.
The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) held its 56th Assembly in Taipei on 26-29 April 2011, at the Hall of Mackay Memorial Hospital. I was invited to represent CCA to this Assembly and to deliver greetings. Prior to the Assembly, we had the opportunity for an exposure to the Mackay Memorial Hospital, established in memory of Dr. George Leslie Mackay, a missionary from the Presbyterian Church in Canada to Taiwan in 1884, whose special ministry was on healing and preaching. This hospital has become a blessing to the people of Taiwan.
I was so moved by the commitment of the members of PCT to raise funds for the relief work in Japan. It was very successful as they were able to reach beyond the targeted amount.
Visit to members in Hong Kong
From Taipei I proceeded to Hong Kong on 28 April. Mr Augustine Karmakar, the Honorary Treasurer of CCA from Bangladesh and I visited our member churches, met with some church leaders in Hong Kong and shared the joys and concerns of the CCA family. We visited the headquarters of the Salvation Army in Hong Kong and met Lieut. Colonel Samuel Pho, Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army Hong Kong and Macau Command.
We also visited the Most Rev. Paul Kwong, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Hong Kong. We met with Rev. Lo Lung Kwong, the President of the Methodist Church of Hong Kong at the School of Divinity of the Chinese University, where we also met some staff of the university. In addition, we met with Rev. Po Kam Cheong, General Secretary of Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC) and a member of CCA Executive Committee; and Bishop Thomas Soo, the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong, member of the CCA Company in Hong Kong and former Honorary Treasurer of CCA. We discussed matters related to CCA finances and met with the CCA Auditor in Hong Kong.
We visited the office of Amity Foundation and met the Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Tong, and Helene Chan, a former Administrative Assistant of CCA in Hong Kong before who now works with Amity Foundation. It was a way for CCA to strengthen relationships with member churches and council, theological schools and other ecumenical organizations. The visit was enriching as we learned about the life of CCA members and received some suggestions for the enhancement of CCA’s ministry. We visited the former CCA Center in Pak Tin Village, Tai Wai, which has been converted into a Buddhist monastery. I worshipped at the Kowloon Union Church, an ecumenical congregation where many CCA staff went to church when CCA was still in Hong Kong.
Theological education in the refugee camps
It was a moving experience for me to participate in a seminar of the teachers of theological seminaries and bible schools along the border of Thailand and Myanmar. It took us 6 hours to travel by car from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot, a city of Thailand located near the border with Myanmar. It was a special privilege to be invited and to have met about 60 teachers from 10 theological seminaries and bible schools located in the refugee camps along the border.
The teachers attended a three day seminar supported by the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) Seosomoon Congregation, organized by Rev. Huh Chun Jung, a PCK pastor involved in the Mekong Ecumenical Program in the past 4 years.
It is heartening to note that in the midst of their struggles and being away from their homes as refugees, they were able to build and maintain a theological education which I believe has stimulated them to develop their theologies of struggle. Most of the participants are members of the Karen community and traditionally they belong to the Myanmar Baptist Churches.
On the way to the refugee camp, we visited the Mae Tao Clinic initiated by Dr. Cynthia Maung in February 1989, who fled from a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar at that time. It is basically a community health center located in Mae Sot, which for over 20 years has developed tremendously. Every day this Clinic is visited by about 500 patients from near and far. Many volunteers served there coming from various countries. Some volunteers are local people who were trained and supported by many organizations around the world. This Clinic certainly has been a blessing for the people especially the poor and the refugees, and is giving them hope for healing.
The 2011 Asia Sunday
June 5 is very near, the day we mark and observe the Asia Sunday. Asia Sunday is our way of lifting up to prayer and worship, the lamentations and cries of people around Asia. If the proposed date is not suitable to your church calendar, please find the best time for your church or congregation.
In desperate and hopeless situations, the questions that often arise in the hearts of those suffering are these: “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (Psalm 77:9, NRSV) When people are hurting, wounded, desperate and lonely, we are called to pray for and with them. We are called to work together so that the healing and the reconciling power of God may transform darkness; so that hope may shine again and become a life-giving power in people’s lives. Asia Sunday is our time for worshipping and praying together for Asia.
The Worship Resource Guide for the 2011 Asia Sunday has been widely circulated for your use. It is also available from our website (www.cca.org.hk) under Resources. We will gladly oblige to send you a pdf copy upon request. Simply email us (email@example.com). Make use of the resources as you see fit. And kindly remember to share with CCA later, your feedbacks and suggestions, especially for the 2012 Asia Sunday. A special appeal is for us to remember our special dedication of offerings during Asia Sunday for the CCA Emergency Fund.
ACTS IV held
The Fourth Asia Conference of Theology Students (ACTS IV) gathered 31 students from 12 countries in Asia at the Bangkok Christian Guest House in Bangkok, Thailand on 3-7 April 2011. Of this number, 8 were Catholics while the others came from seminaries of Protestant and Independent traditions. The theme of the conference was “Praying and Working Together for Unity in the Household of God.” Three biblical reflections were presented on the sub-themes of “The Gift and Task of Unity in Christ”, “Unity in the Household of God” and “Praying and Working Together for Unity.” Other inputs were on “Theologizing in the Context of Asia”, “Tools of Analysis of Asian Reality”, “Conflict Transformation”, “Dialogue”, “Promoting the Integrity of Creation”, and “Peace Building: Thai Experience”. (with reports from Hope Antone)
Ecumenical Enablers’ Training for Vietnam
For the first time, CCA-FMU was able to organize the Ecumenical Enablers’ Training in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on 26-29 April 2011. Some 44 pastors, students of Bible Schools or mission institutes from various parts of the country attended the training which focused on the theme, “Living Together in the Household of God.” Although there was an initial resistance to interfaith and feminist approaches to doing theology, a number of participants later confirmed the need for these in their ministry. (with reports from Hope Antone)
Indian Churches endorse campaign against endosulfan
The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) expressed deep concern over permitting the use of endosulfan in India’s ultimate agriculture.
NCCI endorses the campaign against endosulfan undertaken by the Indian Civil Society’s different fora demanding and pressing for a nationwide ban on the deadly pesticide – the use of which over the years left scores dead and forced several hundreds to live with chronic health problems in many parts of India.
NCCI acknowledges and endorses the decision of the Stockholm conference to ban endosulfan. Realizing the grim danger posed by the pesticide to living beings and nature, it had been banned by 80 countries. NCCI demands that the Government of India inform the people as to why the UPA Government at the Centre is still reluctant to take action.
NCCI demands that the Government of India, especially the Ministry of Environment and Forest, should have a perpetual quest for assuring healthy agricultural products and improving the standards by banning harmful fertilizers. It believes that since endosulfan has been declared harmful worldwide, the Government of India should also do likewise and assure the health and safety of the Indian society. More details at http://www.nccindia.in/news/pressrelease/n_224.htm
Yours in Christ,
HENRIETTE HUTABARAT LEBANG
CCA General Secretary