South Asia Sub-Regional Training on ‘Building Ecumenical Advocacy Networks for Combating HIV and AIDS’ begins in Colombo, Sri Lanka

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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    Colombo, Sri Lanka: South Asia Sub-Regional Training on ‘Building Ecumenical Advocacy Networks for Combating HIV and AIDS’ participants

    Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Christian Conference of Asia’s (CCA) South Asia Sub-Regional Training on ‘Building Ecumenical Advocacy Networks for Combating HIV and AIDS’ was opened this afternoon in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

    The sub-regional training, being held from 24–26 January 2024, brought together over thirty participants including clergy, church workers, health professionals, health workers, shelter home carers, medical and social counsellors from church-related institutions as well as social activists, and members of NGOs working in the field of HIV and AIDS. The participants hail from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

    The opening address was delivered by the CCA General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara who highlighted the trend of South Asia’s HIV epidemic situation, which is spreading within an environment of stigma, discrimination, and denial. 

    The CCA General Secretary further added, “Our biblical and theological conviction reminds us about God who animates, sustains, and protects life and this belief is grounded in a theology of life. God’s gifts of life, dignity and love obligate humans to affirm that these gifts are extended to all humanity as God’s redemptive love embraces everyone in the world. The suffering and death resulting from HIV and AIDS have impeded the hope of God’s promise for life in its fullness and abundant life.”

    He quoted studies on situations in South Asia where people living with HIV (PLHIV) face serious rights violations. Many are tested without consent and their confidentiality is often breached, leading to harassment and rejection by families and communities. HIV-positive people have lost their livelihoods and homes; some have been subjected to violent attacks and denied access to basic and lifesaving medical care.

    Recognising the complex factors that fuel the epidemic, poverty, low literacy, outbound migration, tourism, internal displacement, lack of adequate healthcare systems, and social and cultural values that are hampering the response to HIV,  Dr Mathews George Chunakara stated, “What is required in South Asia is a comprehensive and rights based-response and policy that will aim to build an environment where the rights of all members of society are protected; where social space is created to  address HIV and related issues; and where the dignity of PLHIV are recognised and upheld.” 

    Rev. Sujithar Sivanayagam, General Secretary of the National Christian Council in Sri Lanka (NCCSL), and Rev. Ebenezer Joseph, President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, greeted and welcomed the participants at the opening session. The Methodist Church in Sri Lanka is the local host and coordinator of the training programme together with the NCCSL. 

    Rev. Fr. Philip Kuruvilla facilitated the first session which focused on ‘Health and healing from the perspective of Christian mission and witness’.

    Various other sessions of the South Asia regional programme will include ‘Biblical-theological reflection on towards inclusion of PLHIV’, ‘Participation of communities in combating HIV and AIDS’, ‘Churches’ participation in responding to HIV’, ‘Addressing stigma and discrimination: role of local congregations’, ‘Awareness-building and advocacy’,  ‘Pastoral care and accompaniment’ as well as well as workshop sessions for preparing an agenda for establishing local advocacy networks in South Asian countries.

    The purpose of the training is to build the capacity of volunteers in advocacy, especially by way of creating networks of churches in Asia and interfaith initiatives for advocacy at the grassroots. It is also expected to deepen a relevant and contextual theological understanding of health and healing ministry.

    “Asia is home to an estimated 6.5 million people living with HIV and 300,000 new infections in 2022. Without supportive national policy environments, many people living with and affected by HIV continue to experience stigma and discrimination that prevents them from accessing prevention methods, treatment, and care,” stated Dr Ronald Lalthanmawia, Coordinator of the CCA’s Action Together in Combating HIV and AIDS in Asia (ATCHAA) programme. 

    “Faith-based organisations have historically played an important role in delivering health and healing-related social services. The training programme intends to maximise the capacity of churches and faith-based organisations to deliver care, treatment, and support to the most vulnerable of populations affected by HIV,” added Dr Lalthanmawia.

    The CCA, through its Action Together in Combating HIV and AIDS in Asia (ATCHAA) programme, has been engaged in equipping its member churches and councils to effectively respond to HIV and AIDS issues in Asia.

    For more photos (Photo Gallery), please click here: South Asia Sub-Regional Training on ‘Building Ecumenical Advocacy Networks for Combating HIV and AIDS’ Day 1