Dear Ecumenical Friends and Colleagues –
Warm advent greetings to you.
Advent is a time to reflect again and again on our readiness to welcome the baby Jesus of Bethlehem, and our commitment to follow his steps in whatever situation we are in our life and ministry. The response of the righteous in Matthew 25:37-39, may guide our meditation as we ponder on our life this year:
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?” Jesus, the king answered firmly: “Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
We are constantly reminded of the church’s missionary call amidst enormous challenges for peace and justice to reign in our fragmented world today, where many are suffering in Asia and around the world – those whom Jesus called as “members of my family.”
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines held its 23th General Convention on 21-24 November 2011, in Batac, Ilocos Norte, the Philippines. Hosted by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church), it was held with the theme, “Holding High the Tapestry of Justice and Peace in a Broken World.”
Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno presented the Bishop La Verne D. Mercado Memorial Lecture entitled “Social Justice in the Philippines: Facts and Law” , tracing the historical developments undergone by the Philippine Constitution of 1935 and 1987, and highlighting the critique of the impact of laws on the marginalized and vulnerable sectors in Philippine society.
Mr. Carlos Ocampo, CCA Executive Secretary for Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service (JID), delivered the distinguished Gumersindo Garcia Memorial Lecture at the 23rd General Convention of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). Ocampo traced the historical journey of Filipinos in their struggle for justice with the theme, “To hunger and struggle for justice – a continuing journey with the Filipino people”.
One of highlights of the convention was the adoption of the Policy on HIV and AIDS, in which CCA helped support the drafting process with the competent assistance of CCA Consultant for HIV and AIDs Program, Dr. Erlinda Senturias.
WCC Members Meeting
The World Council of Churches (WCC) held a meeting of its member churches in Bali, Indonesia, on 11-14 November 2011, where I was invited to attend as General Secretary of CCA. Twenty-eight (28) out of 31 CCA member church in Indonesia are WCC members. The meeting was co-organized by the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and hosted by the Bali Christian Protestant Church. The opening celebration was held in the middle of the celebrations of the 80th anniversary of Bali Church in the village of Blimbingsari.
In the light of our efforts to strengthen the ecumenical family collaboration is crucial. In a final statement produced at the end of the meeting, the churches proclaimed: “We renew our determination to return to the common commitment in the ecumenical movement as a form of reflection of church faith, to optimize the church response towards the problems being faced by the world today.” The statement went on to say: “In relation to this we are determined to support programmes and services of the ecumenical bodies, global, regional and national (WCC, CCA, PGI), as ecumenical institutions which we ourselves helped shape.”
Guests from World Vision Asia Pacific and visit to Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN)
CCA very much appreciated the visit of Mr. Ajit Hazra, Director of Christian Commitment of the World Vision Asia Pacific together with two other staff, Mr. Haryati Khristianto who is in-charge of church partnership and interfaith engagement, and Mr. David Fitzstevens who is in charge of HIV and AIDS concerns, to the CCA office on 29 November 2011. The visit was an opportunity to know each other and to explore possible collaboration in addressing common concerns especially in Asia.
Together with guests from World Vision Asia Pacific, the General Secretary visited the Christian Broadcasting Network Siam under the leadership of Ms. Karen Thomson. It was an opportunity to learn about CBN in Thailand and to explore possibilities for collaboration especially around the concern on the role of media and child protection.
CCA Participates in WCC Ecumenical Solidarity Visits and Human Rights Consultation
Dr. Natalie Lin, CCA Executive Committee member from Taiwan and Ms. Janejinda Pawadee of CCA-JID represented CCA to the WCC Program on Ecumenical Solidarity Visits to Bangladesh and Nepal, in which a Consultation on Human Rights of Stateless People will follow, on December 12 – 18, 2011. Some church leaders from CCA member churches were also invited directly by WCC – Commission of the Churches on International Affairs to participate in this program.
The objectives of the Program included: to express solidarity with the churches and communities in both countries; to learn about the situation of Stateless people based in Bangladesh and Nepal; to empower local churches to engage in solidarity, advocacy and ministry to and with stateless people; to identify priorities and advocacy strategies; to assess the human rights situation of stateless people living in Nepal and Bangladesh, and to bring to the attention of international circles – Human Rights Council, UN High Commission for Refugees, etc. – the deplorable condition in which stateless people live, and urge the international community to collaborate to find lasting solutions for stateless people in these countries; and to influence policy at the global, regional and national levels by projecting a Christian perspective rooted in ethical responses.
The CCA staff on behalf of CCA members joined the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) in preparing Christmas packages for the flood victims in Thailand who still suffer as flood waters inundate their places to this day. Using the remaining amount available from the CCA Emergency Fund, this is our small way to express care and love to our neighbors terribly affected by the prolonged floods.
CCA is undergoing a time of change and transition. Some CCA staff has completed their terms of service this year 2011.
On behalf of the CCA member churches and councils, let me take this opportunity to express CCA’s heartfelt appreciation to the staff who have contributed to the ministry of CCA in the past years:
• Rev. Dr. Rienzie Perera, Associate General Secretary for Finance and Relationships (March)
• Rev. Freddy de Alwis, Joint Executive Secretary – JID (July)
• Dr. Hope Antone, Joint Executive Secretary – Faith, Mission and Unity (September)
• Ms. Moumita Biswas, Joint Executive Secretary for Ecumenical Formation, Gender Justice and Youth Empowerment (EGY) (November)
• Rev. Dr. Sung Kook Park, Joint Executive Secretary for Faith, Mission and Unity (December)
• Dr. Liza Lamis, Consultant for Communications (December)
• Dr. Erlinda Senturias, Consultant for HIV and AIDS Program (December)
May God faithfully bless them in their life journey. In January 2012 we will welcome a new staff team.
May I take this opportunity to thank all CCA member churches and councils, officers and members of General Committee and Program Area Committees, Ecumenical Partners and friends in Asia and around the world who supported the ministry of CCA in 2011. CCA is looking forward to your continued prayers and support for its ministry in the coming years.
Merry Christmas and have a blessed New Year 2012!
Henriette Hutabarat Lebang
CCA accompanying churches in peace and human rights advocacy
The last quarter of the year saw the Christian Conference of Asia engaged in supporting its member churches and Councils in advocacy work in peace, (human) security, and human rights advocacy.
Consultation on Asian Realities in Bangkok
In collaboration with the World Council of Churches, CCA held a Consultation on Asian Realities in Bangkok to consult and resource its constituency in engaging in human rights and democratic governance, migration and migrant rights, internal displacement, peace building and conflict resolution, and the exercise of religious freedom.
An analysis of the geopolitical realities in Asia was presented by Dr. Michael Vatikiotis, a visiting fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, in “The Geopolitical Realities in Asia” in a keynote presentation. Other theme presenters were Basil Fernando (AHRC), Carmencita Karagdag (Peace for Life), Carlos Ocampo (CCA-JID), Matthews Chunakara (WCC-CCIA), and Yin Yin Mau and Shwe Lin (Myanmar Council of Churches). Bible studies were led by Dr. Roger Gaikwad (NCC India) and Dr. Joseph Komar Peter (STM Malaysia).
An exposure visit to refugee camps in Mae Sot by a group of seven (7) church representatives preceded the Consultation and was helpful in setting the tone and in providing the context of ecumenical work in the Mekong region.
CCA Delegation to Jeju island, South Korea
On the invitation of the National Council of Churches in Korea, CCA organized an advocacy visit to support the Korean churches’ opposition to the construction of another US navy base in Jeju Island. The Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, NCC India General Secretary, and the Rev. Alistair Macrae, Uniting Church in Australia President were accompanied by CCA’s Carlos Ocampo left for Seoul on 7th August 2011 for briefings and then to the Kangjeong Village in Jeju Island where they visited the site of the proposed navy base, worshipped with the community, and attended a candlelight vigil, all expressions of the growing people’s opposition to the naval base.
The CCA delegation was accompanied by representatives from NCCK, PROK, PCK and the Korean Methodist Church to Jeju Island on 9th and 10th August. Back in Seoul on 11th August, NCCK hosted a press conference where the delegation presented a CCA Statement supporting the Korean churches’ opposition to the navy base.
Third International Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia
On 5th to 7th October, the third “International Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia” was held at the Christian Institute in Naha, Okinawa in Japan, hosted by the NCC Japan. More than 220 people joined exposure groups and participated in the Conference. They heard stories of suffering from loss of dignity, native culture and traditional livelihood resulting from the presence of US bases in Okinawa. A peace march was organized through the main streets of Naha, and a press conference was held at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Kagurazaka, Tokyo, where a panel composed of Cory Bently, Jonathan Frerichs, Takao Takeda, Junaid Ahmad, Jeong Jin Woo and Carlos Ocampo met with the media and reported insights from the Article 9 Conference.
General Assembly of the Korean Christian Church in Japan
From Okinawa, CCA’s Carlos Ocampo went to Fukuoka, Japan to represent CCA in the 51st General Assembly of the Korean Christian Church in Japan on 10-12 October 2011. He gave greetings from CCA and shared reflections from the 3rd Article 9 Conference and met with Korean church leaders in Japan and their American counterparts.
CCA Human Rights Advocacy Training Course
The Christian Guesthouse in Bangkok was the venue for a CCA Human Rights Advocacy Training Course from 17-21st October 2011 attended by eleven (11) trainees nominated by churches in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The training program introduced the trainees to the UN system in dealing with human rights advocacy, country human rights situations, biblical reflections and practical advocacy experience by resource persons including – Wong Kai Shing (Asian Human Rights Commission), Rev. Revelation Velunta (Philippine Union Theological Seminary ), Debbie Stothard and Anelyn de Luna (ALTSEAN), and CCA’s Carlos Ocampo.
The training took place in the midst of the flooding in Bangkok but the training nevertheless inspired the trainees who were coming from situations of conflict and provided opportunities for networking and lessons in advocacy.
North American AGAPE Poverty, Wealth and Ecology Consultation
As a member of the WCC Reference Group on AGAPE Poverty, Wealth and Ecology Program, Carlos Ocampo represented CCA in the North American Consultation on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology, held in Calgary in Canada’s Alberta Province. More than 60 church leaders, theologians and social activists gathered at the FCJ Retreat Center on 6-11th November.
The Consultation had hearings on contextual theology, indigenous people, the industrial sector mainly the oil industry, and a study on poverty in North America given by resource persons including Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty (US Bellarmine University), Dr. John Dillon (Kairos Canada); while the planning committee for the Consultation was led by Joy Kennedy of the United Church of Canada, and Dr. Rogate Mshana and Athena Peralta from the WCC AGAPE Program.
United Church of Canada General Council Executive Meeting
Immediately after the PWE Consultation, Carlos Ocampo went to Toronto, Canada to be at the United Church of Canada General Council Executive Meeting on 12-14th November as a corresponding member. A major decision was taken for the UCC Offices to stay in Toronto after a long period of consultation and looking at alternative locations.
Other major agenda items in the meeting include the UCC Moderator’s accountability report, the General Secretary’s supervision, nomination of UCC representatives to the 2013 WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea, and other committees within and outside the UCC, and strengthening the ministry to the Francophone constituency.
In one of the sessions, Carlos Ocampo did a power point presentation on the emerging geopolitical trends in Asia and CCA’s role in resourcing and accompanying the Asian churches in conflict situations and invited the churches in Canada’s support and solidarity.
Gumersindo Garcia Memorial Lecture in the Philippines
Representing CCA at the 23rd General Convention of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines along with Dr. Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, Carlos Ocampo was also invited to present the Gumersindo Garcia Memorial Lecture, a public event in every NCCP convention, where he made a presentation, “To Hunger and Struggle for Justice – a Continuing Journey with the Filipino People”. The Convention elected a new set of officers for 2012-2015 and gave the Rev. Rex Reyes of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines another 4-year term.
The last quarter of 2011 activities were preceded by a Planning Meeting of the Program Area Committee for Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service in efforts to plan and implement the Assembly program mandates given at the 2010 Assembly in Kuala Lumpur. Present were eight (8) members of JID PAC and two (2) church representatives. Program priorities were identified, focusing on the training for peace and human rights advocates along with supporting and strengthening the member churches’ advocacy on ecological justice and migrant workers rights. It was a very participatory and engaging planning process.
Joint Executive Secretary – JID
Ecumenical Enablers’ Training
Kampuchea Christian Council
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
1-5 December 2011
A third batch of 35 pastors, lay, youth and women leaders from member churches of the Kampuchea Christian Council attended the Ecumenical Enablers’ Training program organized by CCA-FMU on 1-5 December 2011 at Calvary Church in Phnom Penh. This non-formal Ecumenical Theological Education program seeks to address the needs of new and younger members of CCA, especially where there is a lack of ecumenical theological education, where many pastors are self-made or trained non-formally or do not have access to formal theological education. To prevent them from becoming vulnerable to many types of doctrines brought by enterprising missionaries (including anti-ecumenical propaganda) flocking to their countries, CCA has tried to be proactive in equipping pastors, church leaders, youth workers, women leaders and Sunday School teachers for a more holistic sense of the ministry with a perspective of wider ecumenism, and with the lens of Asian contextual theologizing and Asian biblical hermeneutics.
With the theme, “Living Together in the Household of God,” the training tried to present the wider ecumenical vision in a way that Cambodian Christian leaders would be able to affirm the vision of living together in the household of God, take responsibility for the brokenness in God’s household, and commit to recover the interconnectedness in God’s household through their various ministries. Dr. Hope S. Antone, past Joint Executive Secretary of CCA-FMU, did the overall coordination of the training, including giving a general introduction to the theme, “Living Together in the Household of God”, perspectives of people of other races and religions, and of people with disability, and sustaining church organizations. Other resource persons and their topics were: CCA General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Henriette Hutabarat Lebang, mission perspective of living together in the Household of God; incoming CCA-FMU Executive Secretary Rev. Grace Moon, perspectives of creation and women; and Ms. Janejinda Pawadee, program assistant for CCA-JID, perspectives of people living with HIVAIDS and of children and youth.
In their evaluation comments, the participants hoped that CCA will continue to provide more trainings – and to include topics like youth leadership, Sunday School teaching, agricultural skills, strategies for church development and community development, how to make disabled people live stronger, how to make churches more self-propagating, self-governing and self-dependent.
Social Media for Evangelization
Dr. Liza Lamis represented CCA to the 16th Bishops’ Meet of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences – Office of Social Communication (FABC-OSC) in Hualien, Taiwan, on November 14-19, 2011, with the theme, “Social Media for Evangelization”.
CCA should seriously consider maximizing the use of Social Media (SM) to communicate its work and agenda. SM is designed to be used and shared through social interaction. It is two-way, interactive, global, low-cost, and can be handled by anyone (no need for a pro). Asia is very well ‘connected’ as it has 192M Face Book users, for example. Sharing of photos, videos and software is easier using SM.
CCA as a regional ecumenical formation should think of its ecumenical stakeholders in Asia and consider this picture:
“You want me to support the ecumenical agenda?”
Friend me first.
Use popular media.
Listen to me too.
Make it collaborative.
Also entertain me.
If used wisely, social networking can contribute to the satisfaction of our desire for meaning, truth and unity. It can foster solidarity and unity; facilitate dialogue and positive relations; allows sharing in the context of personal exchanges. In the use of SM we must be honest, open, responsible and respectful of others.
Additionally, the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is encouraged for churches to maximize. The use of FOSS is much easier and convenient, cheaper and the software can be manipulated to suit to an institution’s needs.
Consultant for Communications
CCA Member Churches and Councils Joined in Commemorating World AIDS Day on the theme “Getting to Zero” (Zero Discrimination, Zero New Infection and Zero AIDS-Related Deaths).
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) commemorated World AIDS Day on December 3, 2011 by launching the newly approved HIV Policy on “Creating Nurturing Communities of Care with People Living with HIV.” Many young people participated in the event. Young people of the Bohol Conference of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines will hold their Christian Youth Fellowship Christmas Koinonia in Bilar, Bohol on December 27-31, 2011 with HIV as one of the topic for their reflection and action, reported Rev. Judy B. Astudillo, one of the participants of the Building HIV Competent Churches held at the NCCP on September 14-16, 2011.
Mr. Jeirry Sumampow, Secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (CCI) AIDS Committee informed that CCI commemorated World AIDS Day at the GPIB Anugerah Jakarta (member of CCI and member of CCA) in the Sunday worship on December 4, 2011. It was attended by 435 congregation member church. In the worship, they used special liturgy for World AIDS Day, and there were also a concert of the Children Choir. After worship they had Seminar on “Getting to Zero: Churches’ Role and Responsibility”. The speaker were: Rev. Gomar Gultom (General Secretary of CCI), Dr. Abraham Simatupang (Medical doctor – member of CCI AIDS Committee), and Ms. Clara (Women living with HIV).
The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) launched the campaign on Light a Lamp – Pledge for Rights. It is aimed at spotlighting a range of “Getting to Zero” Initiative. The Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary of NCCI and The Rev. R Christopher Rajkumar, Executive Secretary of the Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation wrote that the objectives of the campaign are “to draw the National Ecumenical Movement’s attention to the denial of the rights of people living with HIV and vulnerable populations; mobilize support for the protection of the rights of PLHIV and affected by HIV and AIDS in order for them to get access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and to combat stigma and discrimination and misrepresentation of sexuality which is a gift of God.” Churches are invited to observe the Light a Lamp – Pledge for Rights Campaign in a way they think appropriate during the season of advent.
Activities suggested on December 1 were to create a virtual lamp a light through the social networking sites as their pledge of commitment for the rights of PLHIV+, to organize a Red Ribbon Flag hoisting and ceremony in front of their buildings. In addition, NCCI member churches are invited to symbolically light their church building on December 27, distribute Red Ribbons and encourage members to share them with fellow worshippers, light a lamp as a symbol of pledge and commitment at the altar, invite a person living with HIV/AIDS, and offer special prayers and sermon focused on the theme, “Getting to Zero.”
Individuals and communities were invited to lamp a light at 7pm in their own homes to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1st.
The Myanmar Council of Churches, Myanmar Interfaith Network on AIDS joined the activities of the seven networks of various Key Affected Populations for the candlelight ceremony on World AIDS Day on December 3. A continuation of the seminar on Building HIV Competent Churches was held in Yangon on December 7-8, 2011.
In Pattaya, participants of the Building HIV Competent Churches organized by the Christian Conference of Asia, The Glory Hut Foundation and Baan Jing Jia Foundation joined the rest of Pattaya AIDS Organization in marching on the streets of Pattaya that ended with a program at the Smart Student School in the evening of December 1, 2011.
The Church of Christ in Thailand AIDS Ministry celebrated World AIDS Day and CAM’s 20th anniversary at the new CCT building on December 9 with worship, exhibits, and lunch for all participants. Pastor Pornsawan Khankaew of Adonai Church in Pattaya, Elder Prasert Dechaboon, Jutatip Dechaboon and Dr. Alphinus Kambodji sang during the service. It was attended by the top leadership of The Church of Christ in Thailand. Small flaglets were given to participants who planted them in a big heart at the altar to commemorate the lives of those PLHIV+ who have returned to the Creator. Souvenirs were given to all participants.
The St. John’s Cathedral (Anglican) HIV Education Center commemorated World AIDS Day with the following activities:
The Manager was invited by The Hong Kong AIDS Foundation at their 20th anniversary charity dinner at the Inter-Continental Hong Kong on 30 November and was interviewed by Standard Newspaper on Monday, 28 November 2011 and interviewed by Health TV, a new TV channel focusing on health related issues in China and Hong Kong SAR on November 30. A radio broadcast on World AIDS Day was aired. Oncert organized by the Red Ribbon Centre at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Plaza C, TST.
Consultant for HIV and AIDS Program