Greetings of peace from the CCA office in Chiang Mai.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus!
Each year on September 21 we celebrate the UN declared International Day for Peace. In the ecumenical world, September 21 is International Day of Prayer for Peace. In the midst of many conflicts which cause violence in the life of families and communities in Asia and around the world, let us use this opportunity to reflect and renew our commitment to proclaim peace based on justice which is central to the message of the gospel. We pray and hope that all warring parties are willing to come to the table of dialogue to discuss and pursue the best ways to achieve a sustainable peace for the welfare of the people.
In its meeting on September 8-10, 2011, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the CCA Executive Committee issued two statements responding to the current situation in Asia. The first statement is CCA Leaders Support the Peace Talks in the Philippines, a response to the reports received from the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and from the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) on the on-going peace negotiations in the Philippines. CCA encourages and supports the two ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Philippine (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP); and between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The second statement is the CCA Leaders support Korean Churches’ opposition to navy base plan. The Executive Committee endorsed the Statement issued by a CCA delegation that visited Jeju Island, South Korea, in August 2011, and in support of the opposition of Korean church leaders to the construction of a navy base. These two statements reflect the ongoing concerns of CCA to accompany the churches in building peace based on justice in the life of Asian people. Both statements can be found in the website of CCA.
CCA Committees Meet in Chiang Mai
We began the month of September with a series of meetings of the CCA Personnel Committee, and the Finance Committee which culminated in the Executive Committee Meeting. The main task of the Executive Committee meeting was to follow up the implementation of the decisions of the General Committee meeting in March 2011, especially relating to program implementation, finance and new staff appointment. The General Secretary Report, Finance Report and Program Reports presented by each Executive Secretaries and Consultants covered the period starting March to August 2011. Nevertheless, the deliberations and discernments in this meeting helped the Executive Committee to make important decisions as we are moving ahead together in the midst of many challenges that we face in Asia today.
Visits to Member Churches in India
In the second part of the month of August, I attended the 175th Anniversary of the reformation in the historic Malankara Church of the first century held in the headquarters of the Mar Thoma Church on August 20, 2011, in Tiruvalla, Kerala, India. I was invited to bring greetings on behalf of CCA. Among the international guests are Rev. Dr. Olaf Fykse Tveit, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches who delivered an inaugural address; Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, WCC Director of International Affairs; and Bishop Hans Gerny of the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland. The presence of a CCA representative in the special events of members is appreciated and is seen as a sign of care and fellowship with the CCA members. We enjoyed the hospitality of Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, the Supreme Head of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church. Some of us also attended the opening of an ecumenical museum and library of the Mar Thoma Church located in Santhigiri Ashram, a great idea initiated by Rt. Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus. It was an inspiring moment for me to have joined a Sunday Worship in a local congregation of the Mar Thoma Church, a church tradition different than mine.
Following the celebration of the Mar Thoma Church, I was able to visit two other CCA member churches in Kerala, India, namely: the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. I was able to meet His Holiness, the Patriarch of the Malankara Orthodox Church, and His Beatitudes Mor Baselius Thomas I, the Catholicose of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church. For Mar Thoma Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Indian Church the last visit of the leadership of CCA was in 1998 when the General Committee of CCA was held in Kerala, hosted by the Mar Thoma Church. The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church appreciated the first visit of the CCA General Secretary. I was also able to visit the Seminary of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, met with H.G. Dr. Kuriakose Mor Theophilose Metropolitan, the Bishop in residence and Rev. Dr. Adai Jacob Corepiscopa, the Principal of the Seminary, and had a brief dialogue session with students and faculty members where I briefly introduced CCA and its ministry.
Visits to the headquarters of each member church and meeting their leadership are always an enriching experience. It is an opportunity to know better the life and the struggles of each CCA member and at the same time, to share the concerns of CCA and our common challenges as a fellowship of Asian churches. I am grateful that through these visits churches have renewed their commitment to CCA towards doing our common responsibilities to support the ministry of CCA.
During this monsoon season, many places in Asia are flooded. Very recently Thailand, Pakistan and some parts of India and Bangladesh have been again flooded causing many casualties and vast destruction. We are also disturbed by the news about the earthquake that hit Nepal and India, and the landslides in China that killed many people. Let us uphold the victims of these natural disasters in our prayers and in tangible forms of support that can assist them in this time of difficulties.
While we all hold our member churches and friends in these countries devastated by floods in our hearts and utter their needs in our prayers, CCA appeals to its members and friends to pray and express their solidarity to those who are cold, hungry, without shelter, sick and even dying. For a concrete expression of care and generosity, you may send your contributions through the CCA Emergency Fund:
Acct. Name: Christian Conference of Asia,
Acct No.: 295-4-709594,
Hang Seng Bank, Hankow Road Branch, Kowloon, Hong Kong;
Swift Code – HASEHKHH;
Account Type: Multi-Currencies Account.
Henriette Hutabarat Lebang
Floods in many parts of Asia
In western Odisha, India, floods in the Mahanadi basin affected over 170,000 people, with 23 dead in as many as 19 districts of the State. Thirty-six breaches in river embankments marooned almost 2600 villages. At least 2.2 million people are affected that includes 3,505 villages. It is feared that post-flood diseases will reak out. Food aid has reached flood victims of Kendrapada, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts, with several voluntary organizations and political parties engaged in flood relief activities.
Thousands of homes are destroyed and over 61,000 peoples are evacuated to safer places. The situation is likely to worsen further as there are chances of another low pressure which is coming up in the Bay of Bengal Ocean leading to more rain in next few days. (with reports from Angelious Michael, NCC India)
In Pakistan, at least 269 people are already confirmed dead, six million affected, with half a million having lost everything they have. Children are dying of diseases and hunger in camps, while food and tents are in short supply. And this to happen even before those hit by the 2010 floods could return to their homeland.
Building HIV-competent Churches On-going
CCA and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) held the second seminar on Building HIV Competent Churches in Asia at the Bishop La Verne D. Mercado Ecumenical Center on 14-16 September 2011. The seminar was participated by 28 people from different member churches of NCCP: Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church of the Philippines, Iglesia Unida Ekyumenikal, and the Episcopal Church of the Philippines. The Metropolitan Community Church sent two representatives. Other organizations present were: Batis Aware, a service organization of women Migrant Workers, the Youth and the Board of Women’s Work of the United Methodist Church, the Women and Gender Commission of the Association of the Major Religious Superior of the Philippines, and Southern Christian College of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
Rev. Fr. Rex R. Reyes, General Secretary of NCC Philippines and a member of the Presidium of the CCA delivered the first Biblico-Theological Reflection during the worship service. He began his reflection with the inspiring story of Pastor Ponsawan Khankaew who gave her testimony in the last worship during the CCA Executive Committee meeting on September 10, 2011.
He shared this reflection on the life of Pastor Ponsawan:
It was a powerful and moving testimony. Moving because it was a first person story – her life story. She told of her blindness and how one eye eventually gained sight. She talked of her isolation from her friends, from the hospital and above all her isolation from her own pastor and the members of her community. She was dismissed as a hopeless case, a sinner and her community talked about rituals and customs related to her impending death. She also told of how her love for her two sons and the apparent love of her sons for her carried her through the painful ordeal. It was powerful because her testimony is a challenge to the church and Christians about our notions of sin, mission and pastoral responsibility. There she was – well recovered singing of her faith in a Jesus who stood by her and healed her. There she was – opening up a ministry for people suffering the suffering she underwent by putting up the Adonai Church in Pattaya and the Glory Hut Foundation out of nothing but her indomitable spirit to minister to people isolated by others. There she was – receiving, without resentment, referrals from pastors who still think they have nothing to do with people living with HIV and AIDS. May she live much longer than the fifteen years she prayed for. There she was – singing of the victory that was hers in Jesus Christ and the joy of watching her two boys grow up in a hostile world. There is no other profound and genuine witness to the love of Jesus and His command to love than the testimony of our own lives.
This story was a fitting start of a seminar to build HIV Competent Church. In a rapid appraisal using the bench mark assessment tool for HIV Competent Church conducted by Dr. Erlinda N. Senturias, only the Metropolitan Community Church, a church of gay people in the Philippines showed elements of HIV Competency. Building HIV Competency among churches is an important step in a society where the HIV epidemic is characterized as low, slow but rising trend of infection by 25% between 2001-2009, as reported by UNAIDS in 2010.
More information on HIV and AIDS were given by Ms. Teresita “Bai” Bagasao, UNAIDS Country Coordinator. There are 7 new infections of HIV everyday and to date there are almost 8000 people with HIV. Pinoy Plus, an organization of people living with HIV+ (PLHIV) shared their experience of stigma and discrimination and isolation. They are advocating for greater access to services and making the government keep their promise. The good news of their advocacy is that PhilHealth, a government health insurance scheme has made a commitment to include PLHIV in a package that will pay for their medication and laboratory examinations beginning next year.
Two more interactive Biblico-theological Reflections were given by Lizette Tapia- Raquel, Cristy Framer Mella, Revelation Velunta and Glorilyn Ostoy, all professors of Union Theological Seminary, and by Darlene Marquez-Caramanzana, NCCP Program Secretary of Ecumenical Education and Nurture. Dr. Senturias gave an input on Building HIV Competent Churches and the Ecumenical and Interfaith challenges in creating safe spaces for HIV and Human Sexuality.
Participants shared that most of their churches do not deal with HIV and AIDS and appreciated the need to build their inner and outer competency and shared some insights on a policy on HIV and AIDS that church leader can act on. They also developed an action plan for the next steps. (with reports from Erlinda Senturias)
New Coordinator for PC (USA)’s mission work in Asia and the Pacific
The Rev. Mienda Uriarte, newly appointed Coordinator for the Presbyterian Church (USA) mission to Asia and the Pacific will begin duties on 19 September 2011.
Uriarte is a Presbyterian minister and a clergy member of Pacific Presbytery, with more than 25 years of experience working in the PC(USA) and other religious organizations. Prior to joining the PC(USA)’s World Mission department, she was the case manager for the Refugees of the World program at Kentucky Refugee Ministries in Louisville, Kentucky, where she successfully resettled more than 1,000 Asian, south Asian and southwest Asian refugees. Uriarte had also previously worked as Coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the PC(USA)’s national office.
CCA congratulates and warmly welcomes Rev. Uriarte to the ecumenical movement in Asia. PC (USA) is one of CCA’s faithful and enduring ecumenical partners in ministry. CCA wishes her God’s blessing in her ministry, and looks forward for a fruitful collaboration in addressing the ecumenical challenges in Asia today.
CCA News a paid subscription
Starting January 2012, CCA News shall be a paid subscription to cover the increasing costs of printing and postage. The August and December 2011 issues will still free. Issues are also available from the CCA website (www.cca.org.hk). Those who wish to continue their hard copy subscription may email their complete postal details and number of years of subscription to firstname.lastname@example.org
Payments in cheque can be made payable to Christian Conference of Asia, and sent to:
Christian Conference of Asia,
P. O. Box 1397,
Shatin Central Post Office, Shatin, N. T.,
Hong Kong SAR, CHINA.
The following would be the annual rates for three issues:
Europe – USD 25.00;
North America – USD 25.00;
Asia – USD – USD 15.00.