Kottayam, India: For the first time in the history of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), a special celebration called the ‘Asian Ecumenical Festival’ (AEF) was organised in conjunction with the General Assembly. The Asian Ecumenical Festival was designated as a special time set apart for celebrating the oneness and diversity of the CCA constituencies, amidst the deliberations and routine official matters of the Assembly.
The AEF, which was attended by a galaxy of ecclesial and ecumenical leaders, specially invited guests, as well as members from local congregations in Kottayam, was inaugurated by the Chief Guest, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala state.
Addressing the gathering in his inaugural address, the Chief Minister explained the significance of such an ecumenical gathering in Kerala. “Kerala is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Around the world, the ecumenical movement is known for promoting unity in diversity. We are exceptionally happy to have ecumenical leaders from Asia and around the world in Kottayam…The Asian Ecumenical Festival helps the cause of ecumenism, and I am glad that the first instance is in Kerala.”
“The concern for the oikoumene is seen in the theme of this Assembly. We need to pinpoint the destruction of the environment across the globe and what causes it, otherwise we are just noisy gongs. Extreme weather events are worsening food insecurity…The renewal and restoration of the environment must go together with the renewal and restoration of humankind. Unless we have a comprehensive approach, our efforts will not be fruitful,” said the Chief Minister, the head of the government of the southern Indian state of Kerala, currently ruled by a Communist Party-led coalition.
Welcoming the attendees of the Asian Ecumenical Festival, the CCA General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara said, “This is a unique and splendid opportunity for us to have a very refreshing experience, especially when we are fully busy with deliberations and routine official matters of the Assembly. This is the first time in the history of CCA since 1957 that we are having an Asian Ecumenical Festival as part of a General Assembly. In ecumenical history, we know that from now onwards, Kottayam will be a landmark. At this Kottayam Assembly, we are launching the AEF as a new initiative as part of the Assembly programmes. That means, there will be yet another reason for recording Kottayam in the future.”
The CCA General Secretary further added that “the AEF officially launched here at this 15th General Assembly will be an important component of future CCA assemblies too. I do hope that my successors in the future will continue the tradition of including AEF as part of every Assembly”.
The public meeting was presided by His Beatitude Dr Theodosius Mar Thoma Metropolitan, the Supreme Head of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
The Mar Thoma Metropolitan in his presidential address stated that “The Asian Ecumenical Festival, a celebration of Asian churches as part of the General Assembly invites everyone to witness the diversified cultural and ethnic backgrounds of the churches in the local vicinity together with others across Asia. The rich culture and heritage of the Asian churches not only add vibrancy but help deepen the meaning of unity in diversity, viewed from different perspectives of the same mission of the Triune God and our responses to His call for discipleship.”
Others on the dais who extended greetings and felicitations included Minister V.N. Vasavan, who hails from Kottayam city, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, the CCA Moderator Bishop Dhiloraj Canagasabey, the CCA Vice Moderator Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, His Eminence Dr Joseph Mor Gregorios, Metropolitan Trustee of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, His Grace Dr Geevarghese Mar Yulios Metropolitan, President of the National Council of Churches in India, Bishop Timothy Ravinder from the Church of South India, and Chairperson of the Assembly Local Host Committee, His Grace Dr Abraham Mar Paulose.
A variety of cultural performances were presented by participants from various Asian churches.
For more photos (photo gallery) please click here: Asia Ecumenical Festival and Public Meeting, 30 September 2023