Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ –
Greetings from the general synod meeting of Toraja Church in Indonesia.
It is my great joy to be invited on behalf of CCA to the special gathering of my own church, the Toraja Church. This meeting is convened every five years and this time it is on July 2 to 9, 2011, under the theme: “Love in deed and in truth.”
Attended by around 1000 participants representing 85 classis or districts of Toraja Church, it consists of 1000 congregations with about 500,000 members. The synod emphasized the importance of building a spirituality among church members rooted in love and truth especially in the midst of the challenges of materialism and deception.
July 3, 2011, was a decisive day for Thailand, CCA’s host country. Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai party has won to become the first woman PM of Thailand. She vows to swiftly tackle Thailand’s problems with a priority to foster reconciliation.
CCA is hoping and praying for a better future for Thailand and its people as it welcomes a new coalition government to lead the nation.
Rejoice for South Sudan
South Sudan achieves its independence on Saturday 9 July 2011, after four decades of recurring warfare and confrontation in Sudan that caused an estimated death toll of more than 2 million as well as destroying much of the region’s infrastructure and eroding resources necessary for a healthy economy.
The WCC, Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) together with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) member churches have accompanied and remained deeply involved in efforts toward peace in Sudan. The WCC, AACC and SCC were instrumental in the creation of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum through which Christians provide support to Sudanese churches in their advocacy for peace and reconciliation. These undertakings helped bring about the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ensured the creation of the Republic of South Sudan.
We praise and thank God for this noble achievement for the people of South Sudan. Let us accompany our brothers and sisters in the future South Sudan with earnest prayers that peace will dwell forever in their land.
Food for North Korea
The Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reconciliation, Reunification and Development in the Korean Peninsula (EFK), in its June 16-17, 2011 meeting in Nanjing, China, called on churches and the ecumenical community to advocate and lobby governments, the United Nations and the European Union to end the current strategy of using food as a political weapon to isolate the North Korean government and cause its downfall.
The EFK, which is coordinated by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC), is composed of representatives from WCC member churches, constituencies and partners from Europe, North America and Asia, including representatives from churches in North and South Korea. CCA was represented in the meeting by Carlos Ocampo, Executive Secretary of CCA Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service (JID) cluster.
Of great concern among the EFK is the lack of international response to the food crisis in North Korea which could threaten peace and security in the Korean Peninsula.
Despite being the major donors of food aid to North Korea during the severe food crises following the famine of the 1990s, the U. S. and South Korea have both withdrawn their food aid to North Korea and imposed sanctions in response to North Korea’s policy of developing nuclear weapons and its recent military activities.
The Rev. Kim Young Ju, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCC Korea) said that “Christians in South Korea are firmly committed to support food aid to our brothers and sisters in the North who are faced with starvation.”
Recently the NCC Korea sent a shipment of 172 tons of food to North Korea with the financial support of the EFK and South Korean churches, despite a South Korean government order prohibiting any civil society and religious organizations from supporting people in North Korea.
The South Korean government criticized the NCC Korea for contacting the North Koreans and went ahead with the aid shipment without getting South Korean government approval. “Even though the South Korean government is prohibiting us from sending food aid to North Korea, we will follow only the order of Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our suffering neighbors,” said Ju.
The Rev. Kang Yong Sop, chairman of the Korean Christian Federation (KCF) of North Korea, expressed appreciation for the support and solidarity by the ecumenical family members from around the globe through the coordination of the WCC.
“The NCC Korea will continue to arrange shipment of food to North Korea, and the South Korean churches are committed to continue their support and solidarity with the suffering North Korean people. This will also be our prophetic witness,” Ju said. (WCC e-news, and with reports from Carlos Ocampo)
A Hymnal Companion to ‘Sound the Bamboo’
CCA is happy to announce Dr. I-to Loh’s latest work, a 616-page reference work, Hymnal Companion to Sound the Bamboo: Asian Hymns in their Cultural and Liturgical Contexts. Published by GIA in the USA and released this year 2011, this important reference embodies I-to Loh’s life work on Asian church music, and his mature theological reflections on contextualization.
The Hymnal Companion to “Sound the Bamboo” examines the hymns in their historical, cultural, and spiritual contexts of 22 countries – this in addition to the usual background stories of texts and tunes of specific hymns in the related hymnal and the biographies of their contributors. The book is also abundantly illustrated with music examples and photos of native instruments, liturgical spaces, and personages.
The hymnal Companion is now available at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, making its first appearance in Asia this June 2011. For interested parties, you may visit http://www.ttc.edu.sg/.
A Hymn Festival in Thanksgiving for the Ministry of Dr Loh was tendered by Trinity Theological College in Singapore on June 25, 2011, 7:30 P.M. CCA was one of those who gave a tribute to Dr Loh.
Dr I-to Loh was the general editor of the “Sound the Bamboo: CCA Hymnal 2000“, with first printing in 1990, published by the Christian Conference of Asia. Sound the Bamboo is available from CCA for USD 15. For orders, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A growing grassroots interest in the ecumenical movement
Twelve leaders from local communities from the Philippines were on an exposure visit to CCA on July 6, 2011, on what Asian countries are doing to promote peace in an interfaith setting.
Dr. Elma M. Neyra, SCC Vice President for Community Education, Research and Extension Administration (CEREA) of the Southern Christian College (SCC) in Midsayap, South Cotabato, led the participants in the 2011 South-to-South Study Exposure of
CEREA’s Peace and Development Program. This rogram facilitates its involvement together with the Tri-peoples (Bangsamoro, Katawhang Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) and Katawhang Migrante (migrant people) in Mindanao in responding and addressing the needs of the victims of atrocities, the marginalized and the less privileged.
The group joined the CCA Wednesday Staff worship where Pastor Sidney A. Sevilla from the group shared on the mandates of following the example of Jesus Christ and of peace making, especially citing common references from the Christian Bible and the Holy Quran as the group has three Muslim participants.
A sharing on the work and programs of CCA followed, facilitated by Mr Carlos Ocampo, Executive Secretary for JID. The community leaders were glad to learn that CCA promotes not only intra-faith but also interfaith dialogue and collaboration and values working with civil society groups in many urgent issues confronting Asia.
The community leaders also visited the Institute of Religion, Culture and Peace of Payap University to learn more on the program theme, Religion, Gender, Ecology and Peace. They also paid a courtesy visit to the Rev. Dr. Pradit Tankerngrangsarit, president of Payap University. The first part of the program was a visit to Cambodia prior to Thailand.
The following were the participants are CEREA partner-leaders from the communities of Cotabato Province representing a sector or program: Ismael, Misuari, Lanson, Abdulrakman, both Interfaith Leaders, Bangsamoro; Pasante, Sarato, Local Development Worker, Bangsamoro; Sevilla, Sidney, Confederation of Farmers Representative; Mamparair, Alonzo, Farmer Trainers’ Representative and an Indigenous Person; Bangcas, Paulita, Women Sector Representative, also an Indigenous Person; Magpili, Martin Jr., CEREA staff for Agriculture; Ugalingan, Analyn Lea T. – CEREA Staff, Children and Gender; and AngSinco, Elvira C., EED Seconded Personnel.
You would be elated to know that Dr. Erlinda Senturias, currently CCA HIV and AIDS consultant was the immediate past president of SCC. (with reports from Liza Lamis)
Ecumenical Youth Trekking
The Ecumenical Youth Council in Korea (EYCK) organized a unique mission summer program for the youth dubbed as Ecumenical Trekking (ET). Twelve youth leaders and students from Korea are participating in this program and will trek Chiangmai (Thailand), Wienchan (Laos) and Hannoi (Vietnam). The program aims to build the youth capacity and spiritual formation in understanding the different dynamics of God’s mission in different cultures. The theme of the Program is: ‘You are the Living Letter of Christ‘.
Sol, Yoonsuk general secretary of EYCK and Byung-chul PARK of the Korean Students Christian Federation (KSCF) accompanied the group. On July 5 they visited the CCA office for dialogue and sharing on the vision, mission of CCA and how ecumenical youth networking can be strengthened, which was facilitated by Moumita Biswas, Executive Secretary of Ecumenical Formation, Gender Justice and Youth Empowerment cluster. Moumita also shared on the various youth activities of CCA and how Korean churches have been partnering with CCA in youth leadership development, and how can EYCK help CCA mobilize the youth for the Asian Students Youth Gathering (ASYG) in 2012. More than 150 youth leaders from churches around Asia are expected to gather to reflect on the theme, ‘Justice and Peace Now’. (with reports from Moumita Biswas)
Strengthening ties in Aotearoa New Zealand
Dr. Hope Antone of the CCA – FMU is currently in Aotearoa NZ for a series of ecumenical lectures. On July 5, she had an hour of sharing at the Ecumenical Women’s Meeting of the Methodist Women’s Fellowship on the topic, “The Role of Women in Developing and Promoting Ecumenism”. This was held at the Trinity Methodist Church of New Zealand where the Rev. Prince Devanandan, CCA General Committee member, is the Parish Superintendent.
Dr. Antone also met with John Roberts, president elect of the Methodist Church and his wife, Diana. In the afternoon, she visited the Synod Office of the Anglican Church where she met with Rev. Michael Hughs, the General Secretary.
On July 6, Wednesday, together with the Very Rev. Pamela Tankersley who is FMU Program Area Committee member, met with Rev. Dr. Stuart Vogel who heads the Presbyterian Church of ANZ Asian Advisory Committee. In the evening she gave a public lecture on “Towards a Wider Ecumenism”, at the same time introducing CCA. Dr Antone is scheduled to meet more ecumenical leaders in Aotearoa NZ.
Meeting the local people and visiting the CCA member churches in situ is always a connecting and grounding experience. Let us hope and pray to further strengthen ecumenical ties that bind us and keep us tightly bonded together in the service of God’s people. (with reports from Hope Antone)
Building HIV Competent Faith Communities
Fifty-four (54) participants attended the Round Table Meeting on Building HIV Competent Faith Communities held at Myanmar Ecumenical Sharing Center in Yangon, Myanmar on June 18-23, 2011.
All the participants from Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, India and Zimbabwe were important resource people who shared their experience and expertise on the subject. They appreciated the sharing of the 7 Networks (Myanmar Positive Group, Myanmar Positive Women Network, MSM Network, Sex Workers in Myanmar (SWIM), National Drug Users Network, National NGO Network, Myanmar Interfaith Network on AIDS) and the active participation and sharing of the Myanmar Positive Christian Network and religious leaders who are living with HIV and AIDS who shared their precious stories to the group.
CCA is deeply grateful for the hospitality of the local hosts from various faith especially those who belong to the Myanmar Interfaith Network on AIDS (MINA) and local donation of food and cash to support other round table expenses from Burnet Institute, Myanmar Catholic HIV and AIDS Network (MCHAN), Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), Judson Church, and Ratana Metta Organization.
The presence of the Asian Interfaith Network on AIDS (AINA), the Indian Interfaith Coalition on AIDS (IICA), the Indonesian Interfaith Network on AIDS (INTERNA), the Interfaith Network on HIV and AIDS in Thailand (INHAT), the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), the Catholic Commission on Health, and the International Network of Religious Leaders living with and personally affected by AIDS in the Asia Pacific Region (INERELA+) encouraged the other countries to set up their own interfaith networks like Bangladesh.
We thank Rev. Saw Shwe Lin, Rev. Dr. Arthur Kolay, Dr. Soe Naing (UNAIDS) and Dr. Samuel Kyaw Hle, Moderator of Judson Church for their greetings and sharing on the HIV situation in Myanmar. We express our thanks to Dr. Susan Purcell Gilpin (Dr. Sue Parry), consultant of the WCC EHAIA for her inspiring sharing on Building HIV Competent Churches; Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar for his challenging interactive methodology of Theology and HIV which helped interrogate our understanding of a Mighty, Hierarchical God to a God who is Loving, Compassionate, journeys with us in our suffering and in our everyday life where ever we are; and for Ms. Darlene Caramanzana for leading the group on Building HIV Competent Churches in the Bible Study.
Through the very able facilitation of Dr Erlinda Senturias, CCA HIV and AIDS consultant, we are now hoping to echo this to the 7 countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Bangladesh).
The first seminar already took place in Lashio, Myanmar on June 26-29. Fifteen from Myanmar Baptist Churches, ten from Lashio Council of Churches, and Myanmar Catholic HIV and AIDS Network participated. Rev. Mang Kang Sum of the Myanmar Baptist Convention coordinated the seminar, and the resource persons aside from him are Ms. Julia Aye Thida and Ms. Khine Mar Swe.
The rest of the countries have made plans for meetings from September to October. The participants read the pledge of commitment as developed for the religious leaders by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and owned it as their own pledge and promise to ensure zero stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV and AIDS, zero gender based violence and zero new HIV infection.
Let us ‘live the promise’ and let us meaningfully involve people living with HIV and AIDS.
CCA looks forward to the meeting of interfaith leaders in Busan, Korea on August 23-25, 2011 and in the many initiatives on HIV in our own countries. (with reports from Erlinda Senturias)
“Mission belongs to the very being of the church”
This is the opening statement of the Preamble of the Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct, a document produced by the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance.
A product of five years of collaborative work, this document is meant to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices and to use the recommendations in this document to prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission among those of different religions and among those who do not profess any particular religion.
I urge all CCA members to study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to Christ, both by word and deed. The document can be accessed from the CCA website (www.cca.org.hk)
Fellowship of the Least Coin
CCA is consistently engaged in promoting the Fellowship of the Least Coin, a worldwide ecumenical movement of prayer for peace and reconciliation. Every year CCA in partnership with the Asian Church Women’s Conference (ACWC) is responsible for endorsing grant applications to the International Committee of Fellowship of Least Coin (ICFLC) to support women’s initiatives for peace and justice in Asia.
This year CCA endorsed applications from the Mulvany Shelter Home serving aged widows and destitute women of the Church of North India (CNI) in Kolkata Diocese; the Conflict Transformation Training of the Women’s Fellowship of Toraja Church in Indonesia; and the EASY Net Initiative of Asian Students Youth Gathering in 2012 which will mobilize a big number of Asian youth to reflect on the theme, ‘ Justice and Peace Now!. (with reports from Moumita Biswas)
Mr. Jung, Ryong Jae or Isaac, was CCA’s guest on June 30. Isaac is an M. Div. student at the Boston University School of Theology who was visiting the Mekong countries to experience and understand mission work and missionaries in the Mekong Region. He was also interested in knowing about CCA and its work, and was thus given by Mr Carlos Ocampo a briefing on CCA and a quick tour of the CCA Library.
Referred to CCA by the General Board of Global Mission of the United Methodist Church USA, Isaac was hosted by Rev. Gary and Cindy Moon of the United Methodist Church Chiang Mai Mission.
Blessings of peace and joy to you!
Yours in Christ,
HENRIETTE HUTABARAT LEBANG
CCA General Secretary