Diakonia and Sustainable Development training draws resources and experiences from diverse Asian experiences and theological reflections

Programme Review and Programme Direction

Two key deliberative sessions during the 15th CCA General Assembly are the Programme Review and Programme Direction sessions.

The Programme Review and Programme Direction sessions will both be conducted in three groups relating to the CCA’s programme areas, namely, (i) General Secretariat (GS), (ii) Mission in Unity and Contextual Theology (MU) and Ecumenical Leadership Formation and Spirituality (EF); and (iii) Building Peace and Moving Beyond Conflicts (BP) and Prophetic Diakonia (PD).

Assembly participants will have the option to join one of three groups for both the Programme Review and Programme Direction sessions. For the sake of coherence, the assigned group will remain the same for both sessions.

General Secretariat

The General Secretariat oversees the coordination of programmatic, administrative, and financial activities of the organization. The GS comprises various departments such as church and ecumenical relations, relations with ecumenical partners, finance, administration, and communications, which provide crucial support and services for the implementation of programs and contribute to the overall functioning of the CCA.

Programmes: Relations with member churches and councils, ecumenical partners; advocacy at the United Nations; ecumenical responses to emerging issues in solidarity; income development and finance; and communications.

Mission in Unity and Contextual Theology (MU) and Ecumenical Leadership Formation and Spirituality (EF)

Under the MU programme area, the CCA accompanies Asian churches to strengthen their mission and witness in multi-religious contexts, revitalise and nurture church unity and the Asian ecumenical movement, and develop contextual theological foundations.

Programmes: Asian Movement for Christian Unity (AMCU); Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS); Asian women doing theology in the context of wider ecumenism; contextualisation of theology in Asia and ecumenical theological education.

The EF programme area focuses on nurturing and developing ecumenical leaders in Asia. The programme aims to enhance spiritual formation and theological understanding, enabling people to actively engage in ecumenical dialogue and collaboration.

Programmes: Ecumenical Enablers’ Training in Asia (EETA); Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI); Youth and Women Leadership Development; Ecumenical Spirituality and Nurturing of Contextual Liturgical Traditions; Asia Sunday

Building Peace and Moving Beyond Conflicts (BP) and Prophetic Diakonia and Advocacy (PD)

The BP programme area is dedicated to promoting peace, justice, and reconciliation in Asia’s diverse contexts. Through training, advocacy, and dialogue, the programme addresses the root causes of conflicts, empowers communities, and fosters sustainable peacebuilding initiatives.

Programmes: Pastoral Solidarity Visits; Churches in Action for Moving Beyond Conflict and Resolution; Young Ambassadors of Peace in Asia (YAPA); Ecumenical Women’s Action Against Violence (EWAAV); Eco-Justice for Sustainable Peace in the Oikos.

The PD programme area focuses on promoting justice, human rights, and social transformation in Asia. Through advocacy, capacity-building, and raising awareness, the programme addresses systemic injustice, empowers marginalised communities, and advocates for prophetic actions and meaningful change.

Programmes: Human Rights advocacy; Migration, Statelessness, and Trafficking in Persons; Asian Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network; Asian Advocacy Network on the Dignity and Rights of Children (AANDRoC); Ecumenical Solidarity Accompaniment and Diakonia in Asia (ESADA); Health and Healing; Good Governance; Action Together to Combat HIV and AIDS in Asia (ATCHAA).

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    Panel discussion session on 'Regional Approach to Sustainable Development Goals: Sharing of Experiences'

    Medan, Indonesia: On the second day of the Asia regional training programme on ‘Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainable Development’ held in Medan, in the North Sumatra region, Indonesia, reflections and discussions were centred on approaches to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and theological and biblical reflections on diakonia.

    Rev. Akihini Keita Hotere, from the Methodist Church in New Zealand, in a biblical theological reflection said, “We are a diverse body of witnesses, many multilingual. Trinitarian perspectives, our beliefs, our concepts, symbols, and worldviews influence the work that we do as Christians, as believers in the way of Jesus Christ. With a depth of conviction, we work towards building a vision of sustainable development bearing prophetic witness at crucial times.”

    Rev. Hotere added, “We avoid our complacent attitudes and provide ecumenical advocacy to uplift the marginalised, our migrant communities, our disabled, women, and children. Understanding ‘diakonia’ from a Trinitarian perspective reveals the divine essence of service rooted in love, unity, and humility. In our concern for one another and the common home in which we all share.”

    Rev. Asigor P. Sitanggang, Th.D of the Jakarta Theological Seminary shared the biblical and theological foundations of diakonos and diakonia. “Diakonia must not only be charitable, but must be charitable, reformative, and transformative."

    He then added, “The Church also needs to carry out a reformative diakonia, namely the construction of the necessary physical facilities. However, the Church must also move further than that, namely transformative diakonia, or diakonia that changes humans so as to help them change each other and the environment and nature. The third implementation is called holistic diakonia.”

    Dr Sitanggang proposed three characteristics that referred to three social perspectives: translatability, prophecy, and cohabitation. “There are keywords for the three roles: commonality, equality, and shared responsibility, which is the spirituality of transformation into a public church. Because of the roles of priest, prophet, and friend, the church can develop into a public church."

    Rev. Dr Asir Ebenezer, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, spoke of diakonia as a means to bridge the gap for a common witness for transformation in a divided world. He referred to ecumenical diakonia as “the speed, the energy, and the wind with which we do what we are doing". 

    He defined ecumenical diakonia as a space, a strategy, and a strength in terms of common witness that can be done commonly by churches and agencies. He then elaborated on the strength of Christians, which can be harnessed as a potential for collective action.

    Regarding the SDGs as a modern agenda of public testimony that will serve as a catalyst for church expansion, Rev. Ebenezer stated that diakonia must be central to the church's mission, rather than an adjunct or department of social ministry.

    Dr Manoj Kurian, Director of Health and Healing of the World Council of Churches (WCC) led a session exploring the study document titled “Called to Transformation - Ecumenical Diakonia”. 

    On diakonia, Dr Kurian elaborated on work and worship, which are no different from love. “Love and service are deeply linked. Love is service, care, and compassion. The love of Christ is a very serious love that makes you willing to give your life to others. Diakonia defines our relationship with ourselves, with others, and with God,” added Dr Kurian.

    During the learning and sharing experience session, Rev. Henrek Lokra of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) discussed the ecumenical council's diakonia programmes, which were based on the organisation's values and mandate.

    He discussed the increasing dialogue and action with local churches in ecumenical networks, which also allowed the emergence of ecumenical formations focused on promoting economic justice and independence, thus achieving one of the SDGs. According to Rev. Lokra, the PGI's diakonia has focused on the struggle for social justice, environmental sustainability, and economic independence in Indonesia. He went on to say that in recent years, they have focused on poverty alleviation, school development, and combating social issues like corruption, drug addiction, and HIV and AIDS. Rev. Henrek also highlighted livelihood and feeding programmes to combat malnutrition in West Papua, as well as disaster response and empowerment for disadvantaged populations in Indonesia, which is frequently hit by natural disasters.

    Dn. Justice Mae Catacutan of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente spoke about the church's experience in upholding human dignity through advocacy for workers' rights, indigenous people's right to self-determination, commitment to just and lasting peace, and alternative education for children in urban poor communities.

    She also emphasised community development projects, which help families improve their livelihoods, food security, and income levels. Rev. Dn. Catacutan also discussed the church's recently launched project, 'Ecojustice Farms', which lays a significant emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability in its development projects.

    During her presentation, she discussed the Church Response Against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (CROSEC) which addresses the current issue faced by children in vulnerable populations, the Workers Assistance Programme (WAP) which promotes the rights of workers and trade unions, and the Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD) which plays a critical role in protecting human rights defenders.

    Dn. Dr Anish Joy of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary in India delivered a presentation on how to harness cultural diversity for long-term solutions, recognise India's rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and traditions, and leverage indigenous knowledge and practices for sustainable development. He also stated that their approach to diaconal ministry encourages cultural interaction and discussion in order to create innovation, as well as incorporating the Syrian fathers' traditional diakonia perspectives.

    When discussing the current societal environment of the diaconate, Dn. Dr. Anish Joy defined diakonia as a form of volunteerism and community engagement focused on improving the lives of others.

    The ongoing workshop seeks to equip church leaders to build programmes and projects, as well as to generate effective strategies for advancing churches' diakonal missions, and to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their local contexts.

    The Asia regional training is being held in Medan, North Sumatra region in Indonesia from 29 April to 2 May 2024 and attended by 35 selected participants.

    For more photos (Photo Gallery), please click here: Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainable Development Day 2