December 12, 2012
Dear sisters and brothers,
Warm advent greetings from CCA office in Chiang Mai.
Many people welcome this day of December 12, 2012 also known as 121212, with mixed feelings. Some considered this day as a special day, and therefore scheduled their special events, such as marriage and other celebrations, on this day. But I also heard that many people were wondering whether this day could be the end of the world, considering that there has been so much of human misbehavior and disobedience to the will of God in our world, which has become the source of many complex problems today, and has caused suffering for human beings and other creations including our mother earth. Amid such confusion, may we share the faith of Paul the Apostle: “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rome 8:38)
Last week I was able to visit Fukushima prefecture in Japan, an area that was hit by tsunami on March 11, 2011. This exposure trip was arranged in conjunction with an Inter-religious Conference on Nuclear Issues organized by NCC Japan in collaboration with other religious organizations in Japan. A few members of the present CCA leadership also participated in this conference, namely: Fr. Rex Reyes, a member of CCA Presidium representing NCC Philippines, Rev. Po Kam Cheong, a member of CCA Executive Committee representing Hong Kong Christian Council and Rev. Hirako Ueda, member of CCA General Committee and also a member of the organizing committee of this conference. It was painful and depressing to hear the stories of those who are affected by the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and the explosion of power plants, and the witnesses of those who are accompanying the survivors of these incidents. The participants of the consultation prepared a statement titled“Declaration of Fukushima 2012: No to Nuclear Power!” which is attached for your kind perusal. I would like to encourage you to circulate it to local congregations and members of your constituencies for their study and action.
We are continuously alarmed by the growing tensions between nations and communities in Asia due to conflicting agendas. More and more countries are pursuing nuclear power as a way to solve their problems, whether it is an urgent need to generate electricity or the intention to defend their political interests. No matter what the purpose is, the conference underlined that: “there is no safe use of nuclear power, no safe level of exposure to radiation, and no compatibility between nuclear power and life and peace.” This concern will continue to be a high priority in CCA programs.
During the conference, we heard the breaking news about typhoon Bhopa that hit the southern part of the Philippines on December 4, 2012, which claimed many lives and caused displacement of larger communities. Let us pray for the affected families and the ministries of churches and communities who serve them.
On my way back to catch my flight at Narita airport, I was able to visit Rev. Tosh Arai, former CCA Associate General Secretary, who was in a hospital at Yokohama. I was accompanied by Rev. Hiroko Ueda. Rev. Tosh looked frail, but after sometime he remembered that the CCA office was no longer in Hong Kong, but in Chiang Mai. Suddenly, while the three of us, including Mrs. Akiko Arai were standing around the bed of Rev. Tosh Arai, we felt the hospital building which has five floors, shaking and swinging. Apparently, an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale had hit Miyagi Prefecture again. You may recall that this area was the one that suffered most in the March 2011 Tsunami disaster. I arrived at the hotel near Narita airport after midnight as the earthquake that evening heavily affected the schedule of flights and trains and had created panic and anxieties among many people.
The December issue of the CCA NEWS highlights the theme: “Upholding the Integrity of Creation.” In the light of recurring natural calamities, and the increase in the intensity and frequency of such events, it is important that the churches in Asia and around the globe, acknowledge that the challenges of ecological concerns should continue to be one of our focal ecumenical agendas.
The CCA Executive and General Committee met from August 20-22, 2012 in Hsinchu, Taiwan. We enjoyed the hospitality offered by the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) and record our heartfelt gratitude to them for the same. The Committees received the report of the General Secretary (GS) and program reports presented by the respective staff, as well as the Finance report. It also received the first report of the CCA Constitutional and Structural Review Committee (CSRC) and tasked the GS to circulate it to the CCA members for their study, comments and suggestions. I am looking forward to receiving of the responses of member churches and councils by the end of this year. This meeting was immediately followed by Asian Church Leaders Theological Consultation on Emerging Issues in Asia from August 23-25, 2012. The opening of the consultation was held in a local congregation of Hsinchu Presbyterian Church which also marked the celebration of the 55th anniversary of CCA.
Let me share with you the various CCA programs that took place in the second part of this year. It was a privilege for me to attend most of these programs, at least in the opening part.
In addition to Asian Church Leaders Theological Consultation described above, the Program Unit on Faith Mission and Unity (FMU) organized a few programs including: The seventh Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS VII) that was held from June 30 – July 6 in Seoul, Korea, which was warmly hosted by the Methodist Theological University (MTU), Seoul. The papers presented in CATS VII were published through two volumes of CTC Bulletin issued this month; Ecumenical Enablers Training Program for Timor Lorosae was held in Dilli from October 1-5 in collaboration with the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and a CCA program on HIV&AIDS; National India Ecumenical Course in Bangalore from November 19th – December 1st was organized jointly with Ecumenical Christian Center (ECC) Bangalore and National Council of Churches in India (NCC India).
Program Unit on Justice, International Affairs and Development and Service (JID) organized various programs on human rights and ecology. A Consultation regarding ‘Sustainable Peace, Security and Reconciliation in Myanmar’ was held in Yangoon from August 2-6, 2012. This program was organized jointly with the World Council of Churches, Commission of Churches on International Affairs (WCC-CCIA) and Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC). Other programs that were jointly organized with WCC-CCIA were: Asian Human Rights Training in Bangkok on October 22-24, Asian Workshop on the Rights of Domestic Migrant Workers on October 25-26, and Ecumenical Solidarity Visit to Cambodia from October 27-31. A Consultation on Ecology, Economy and Accountability was held in Siantar, North Sumatera, Indonesia from November 1-5. This program was jointly organized with the Communion of Churches in Indonesia. We are grateful for the hospitality offered by the Protestant Christian Church in Simalungun GKPS) as host church.
Program Unit on Ecumenical Formation, Gender Justice and Youth Empowerment (EGY) organized programs for young people and gender issues. This included a program on Ecumenical Youth Leadership Development on Justice and Peace, in Dhaka, Bangladesh from July 16-22, 2012, which was jointly organized with the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh. A workshop on Gender Justice – Men and Women Partnership was held in Bangkok from November 19-23, 2012. In addition, EGY continues to monitor the follow up of the Consultation on ‘Upholding the Dignity of Children’ held in May 2012, especially the follow up on the action plans that have been implemented by participants from Indonesia and India.
Special Program on HIV&AIDS especially follow up Training on HIV&AIDS Capacity Building have been held in several places: in Laos from June 5-7 in collaboration with Lao Evangelical Church; for Central Indonesia (October 18-20), Western Indonesia (October 28-30) and Eastern Indonesia (October 31-November 2) were implemented in collaboration with the Communion of Churches in Indonesia. Theological Consultation and Write-shop on HIV & AIDS Concerns were held in Malang, Indonesia from May 12-16 and in Nagpur, India from November 21-25, this year. In some of these programs issues on reproductive health were also addressed. A visit was made to Sri Lanka from November 27 – December 4 to discuss a possible program for churches in Sri Lanka. An activity commemorating World AIDS Day on December 1 was held in Colombo, in collaboration with NCC Sri Lanka.
I had the privilege to attend centennial celebrations of two of CCA member churches, namely Centennial General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) which was held from September 16-20 in Seoul, and the Centennial Celebration of the establishment of the Catholicate of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (MOSC) held at Kochi, India on November 25. One of the highlights of my ecumenical visits this year, is a visit to China Christian Council (CCC) in Shanghai during October 25-28, together with Rev. Po Kam Cheong, General Secretary of Hong Kong Christian Council and member of CCA Executive Committee. We were grateful for the warm welcome and hospitality that we received from the CCC and the openness for collaborations with the churches in other Asian countries in the near future. I am also grateful for the invitation of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Singapore to attend the Young Women Theologians Seminar in TTS Campus in Singapore from September 3-7. This enabled me to visit the headquarters of World Vision International (WVI) Asia Pacific Office and Council for World Mission (CWM), both located in Singapore.
In pursuit of our efforts to strengthen ecumenical relationships and cooperation, I attended the WCC Assembly Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva from July 22-28. Some staff colleagues were able to represent CCA in various events, such as: Interreligious Seminar on Religion and Peace Process in ASEAN held in Bangkok on September 17-19; a Meeting of Working Committee of the Interreligious Cooperative Forum (ICF) in Vientianne, Laos on October 1-5, a program which was jointly initiated by CCA and YMCA Asia Pacific in 2007; and the International Meeting of the Fellowship of Least Coin (ICFLC) in the Bahamas from October 10-20, 2012.
We are thankful to God for granting us wisdom, courage and strength throughout the year of 2012 and for empowering us to implement the mandate of the Kuala Lumpur Assembly 2010, whatever our limitations are. We deeply appreciate the collaboration and hospitality of member churches and councils particularly in program implementation. Let me also express our gratitude to our ecumenical partners who have faithfully expressed their solidarity with the CCA ministry through various forms and expressions of support.
May God bless us as we prepare the celebration of Emmanuel, God with us.
My colleagues join me in wishing you a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year of 2013.
Henriette Hutabarat Lebang