Being Churches Together in Today’s World
May 17th was a memorable day for the participants of AEC 2013, as they got a real feel of the ecumenical world, with the presence of Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, (GS-WCC); Dr. Margaretta Hendricks (WCC-Central Committee); Rev. Dr. Henriette H. Lebang (GS-WCC); Rev. Dr. Herman Shastri (GS- Council of Churches in Malaysia); Rev. David Das (GS- NCC Bangladesh) and Rev. Christopher Rajkumar (NCC India).
In an open lecture, Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit spoke on the theme of the WCC Assembly “God of life, lead us to Justice and Peace.”
Drawing from the powerful Asian symbol of “Rice” that denotes ‘Life’ in the context of Asia and other parts of the world, he said that “the gift of life needs to be nurtured, cultivated and shared so that life is flourishing and people can live in communities of justice and peace. When the community of life breaks apart, people and creation suffer”.
Citing another Asian symbol, that of the ‘Sago Bowl’ , expressed in the church in Papua, he said that the bowl of food represents the ‘gift of life’ and the ‘word of life’ at the same time. Only when the gift and the word is shared to give life, to share life with others, is it truly received. The same is the sign of the bread – which Christ himself made the symbol of his life given for us. To receive the sign of life is always also a call to share life, and to care for life.
“We read in Paul’s letter to the Romans, that creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19). When Christ died on the cross to reconcile humanity with God and his side was pierced by the Roman soldier with a spear so that blood and water poured on the earth (John 19:34), this meant also the liberation of all of God’s creation from the bondage of sin. Life and not death is the promise that we receive in Christ (John 10:10) – not only for Christians, but for all humanity and all creatures on earth.”
The WCC Assembly Theme
Rev. Olaf spent some time in explaining the thought, reflection and debate that went into the evolution of the theme for the tenth WCC Assembly to be held in Busan, Korea later this year.
The theme “God of Life, lead us to justice and peace” he said, is a message of hope wherever life is threatened. It is a message of justice where communities are being destroyed by oppression and marginalization of others. It is a message of peace and reconciliation where people are divided and even fighting each other.
The assembly theme is both a wakeup call to the world, affirming that life is God’s gift for all, and a prayer that God may lead us to justice and peace so that life is no longer threatened and destroyed. Justice and peace are the hallmarks of God’s reign to come. Directing ourselves to receive the gift of life from God, we must begin a pilgrimage of justice and peace.
“Now Choose Life”
One of the earliest suggestions for an assembly theme came from the Korean churches in 2010. They proposed “Now Choose Life”, based on Deuteronomy 30:19. (19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:)
It reflected not only the Korean churches memory of the extensive periods during which tensions on the Korean peninsula heightened and conflict accompanied by death and destruction dominated, but it also responded to the reality of other countries in Asia that suffered like the Korean people because of ideology, military dictatorship, economic growth and the ensuing disparity between rich and poor, violations against human rights, and the ecological crisis.
The Korean churches considered the 10th Assembly of the WCC in Busan, as an opportunity to not only analyse the various challenges facing the churches today but also for determining how they should respond. The decisive step to be taken and the direction to go were given with the call taken from Deuteronomy 30:19, “Now Choose Life”.
The choice of this theme was an attempt to reflect the critical nature of this particular point in time, when the time to respond, and the time to act is now, and now is the time for us to choose life. The theme proposal also reflected the responsibility that we as Christians have to respond by choosing our actions.
Living Together in God’s Justice and Peace
It was also noted that traditionally, the societies in Asia have had a long heritage of diversity. And while the peoples of Asia possess rich, timeless and complex histories of living cultures and spiritualities, Asia is also the place where justice is all too frequently denied, peace under constant threat, and life systematically abused and destroyed. Many countries in Asia continue to struggle in the midst of the challenges of political authoritarianism, poverty, social discrimination and human rights violations, as well as of the consequences of global warming, natural disasters and ecological crisis. In the midst of this painful reality the people of Asia are yearning for a new social order based on the principles of justice, reconciliation and peace. Indeed, this yearning is not only of the Asian people but many others around the globe. Therefore ‘Justice’ was identified as the outstanding aspiration of people of Asia and other continents. The particular emphasis on justice by the churches in Asia was based on the understanding of God’s justice, zedakah, as the foundation of the created order of all living beings, and the basis for God’s covenant with humanity and other forms of life. God’s justice is what ordains right relationships with all living beings. God’s justice is holistic, inclusive and transformative. It renders justice to the offended and transforms the offender. It is based on love and compassion, especially for the last and the least. It seeks transformation at all levels.
Similarly, God’s peace, shalom/salaam, is also different. It is grounded in justice and the ability to be just and to do justice, not only among ourselves as human beings but also in our attitudes towards the whole realm of life. Peace is a gift of God. We cannot build peace nor make peace without seeking justice for there is a fundamental interconnectedness between justice and peace. Peace is real when we nurture and safeguard justice. To that extent, God’s peace is more than an absence of war; it is rather the absence of the causes of war and injustice, the gift of freedom and a celebration of the interconnectedness of life.
Many Asian cultures and spiritual traditions emphasize human togetherness and the interconnectedness of life. Reflecting this specific Asian worldview, the proposal of “Living together in God’s justice and peace” was proposed as a possible assembly theme. With its emphasis on shared life, this proposal also reflected the fact that Christians are a minority in many Asian countries, living together with people of other religions with whom they share the aspirations for life marked by justice and peace.
With the trio of life, justice and peace remaining as the main focus, the theme was re-phrased and took its present shape of “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” as a result of the discussions and deliberations at the assembly planning committee and the central committee.
It became more theological speaking of the God of life and more liturgical being phrased as a prayer, but it did not become triumphal and self-righteous regarding the context of religious plurality. It underlines that Christian faith is faith in the God of life who cares for all living beings and not just for some. Because the salvation of the whole of creation lies in the Triune God, Christians are called to witness to God’s reconciling and redeeming grace and the coming of God’s reign which is marked by justice and peace.
Life and Nuclear power
No image and no words are totally neutral. American Theologian Joseph Sittler confronts the theme of the 1961 New Delhi Assembly “Jesus Christ – the light of the World” with the memory of the brutal flash when the nuclear bomb exploded over Hiroshima in 1945. Since 1945, he said, the metaphor of light is no more innocent. The total destruction of Hiroshima was a clear signal for a completely new situation. From now on, humankind could alter and even destroy life as we know it. The theme of the tenth assembly is therefore a liberating message in a time when parts of humankind have acquired the means to destroy all life within seconds through the use of nuclear bombs, over decades through global warming and climate change and every day through violence and war and through poverty and hunger that kill millions of people every year.
Talking about God as the giver and source of life, we look at life as a whole. The unity we strive for – unity for the churches serving the unity of humankind – is God’s gift, keeping the diverse expressions of life together. The gift of life is to be received and not to be torn apart and destroyed in the race for individual gains that reflects human greed. The great Mahatma Gandhi was clear: Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, but not everyone’s greed.”
The theme affirms that all life is held and sustained by God, healed and reconciled through the death and resurrection of Christ. In the solidarity of the cross, we are called as Christ’s disciples to bring signs of new life into the midst of suffering and signs of hope into the midst of despair.
Being churches together in today’s world
Focusing on life, justice and peace, the assembly theme offers us a motivating and inspiring perspective to look in a fresh way at the different dimensions of being church: koinonia, martyria, diakonia, education and the inter-religious dimension of the churches’ common witness. These dimensions of being church are foundational to what the church is. Therefore, the classical streams of the ecumenical movement of Faith and Order, Mission, Life and Work, Education and Ecumenical Diakonia reflect them. And although the streams have changed in outlook and content to be addressed, these dimensions of being church can still be identified as inter-related but distinguishable spheres of reflection and common action by the churches together.
Seen in the perspective of the assembly theme, unity, mission, justice and peace all refer to God’s gift of life that continues to transform the world and requires the human response of faithful discipleship. In the context of the assembly preparations, these dimensions of being church are responsive to the ecclesial nature of the ecumenical movement, the undergirding ethos of fellowship and consensus, and the witness of the churches not only of one, but of many traditions.
For me, they are also central building blocks for the post-assembly programme structure of the WCC with unity and mission and diakonia and public witness as two pillars of the work and ecumenical education and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation as cross-cutting concerns. We do have the opportunity to develop an integrated agenda of transformation with clear priorities. I expect that the assembly will identify clear priorities together with recommendations for action
- for the fellowship of member churches which is the WCC,
- for cooperation among partners in the ecumenical movement, and
- for the secretariat of the WCC.
Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace
We have a momentum now, focusing on the ecumenical contributions to justice and peace, also to the concept of just peace. How shall we build on this? Interest in a pilgrimage on justice and peace was first indicated by some participants at the IEPC in Jamaica in 2011.
T he image of a pilgrimage as the framework for many of our projects for justice and peace offers a link between spirituality and work that is urgently needed. Furthermore, it conveys a spirituality defined neither by triumphalism nor fatalism. We are on the way, with one another, with the God of life, with a clear purpose: To be a foretaste of the kingdom of God and to serve humanity and the whole of creation. The humility of being pilgrims together is also our strength. Being together means also finding the way together. We are who we are, in our different roles, we are here and able to do something together if we are committed to do so.
We are moving, only if walking, not sitting still. Different routes are possible. But we will find our way to cooperation, to share our tasks, our resources and our dreams if we are focused on the objectives, not ourselves (which might be a temptation for tired pilgrims).
May the God of life grant us vision to see and strength to go forward.
Release of “Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism”
A handbook on theological education and ecumenism titled “Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism” was released on the same day. Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar, one of the editors of this book presented three copies to Dr. Tveit.
Inter-religious Interfacing in search of Life, Justice and Peace: Buddhists and Christians in Conversation
CCA and WCC
27 May- 1 June 2013, Bangkok Christian Guesthouse, Bangkok, Thailand
The theme of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches to be held in Busan, South Korea “God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace” has triggered tremendous interest in ecumenical circles all over the world. In a global situation where tensions are mounting on all fronts with utter disregard for human life and dignity, this theme has touched the hearts and minds of many from all walks of life. It has also inspired and encouraged deep reflection and contemplative study on all the aspects in which these three issues namely ‘Life, Justice and Peace’ can impact the quality and wellbeing of humanity.
Referred to as “the new ecumenical trinity agenda” by Korean theologian Yoon-Jae Chang, these issues of ‘Life, Justice and Peace’ cannot be ignored in a world where dehumanisation of life, denial of justice and disruption of peace is widespread. The location of the assembly in an Asian context also draws attention to the multi-religious environment in which the Christian pursuits of ‘Life, Justice and Peace’ need to be carried out.
The world we live in today is characterised by increasing religious plurality and the problems and promises connected with it. In this context the multi-religious environment does not provide Christians with the just ‘context for’ engaging in the pursuit of life, justice and peace; rather it opens the possibility of ‘collaboration with’ people from other faiths who are already engaged in such pursuits.
In acknowledgement of this recognition, the World Council of Churches, Geneva in partnership with the Christian Conference of Asia has organised an ‘interface’ between Buddhists and Christians to explore possible pathways drawn from the wisdom of Buddhism and Christianity, to pursue life, justice and peace. The interface is premised on the acknowledgement that being distinctively rooted in our respective religious traditions need not necessarily deter joint discernment but can rather deepen our thinking on and engagement with life, justice and peace in creative and concrete ways.
The Interface seeks to understand the themes of life, justice and peace from the perspective of Buddhism and Christianity; explore how Buddhist thought and scriptures can enrich the Christian understanding of life, justice and peace; and engage in discussing transversal themes like ecological destruction, gender discrimination, economic exploitation and social oppression – that cut across the themes of life, justice and peace.
One of the features of this interface is the concept of recognising and embodying a mutual identity as guests and hosts. So the venues have been planned in such a way that both Buddhists and Christians can reciprocate each others hospitality.
It is hoped that this dialogue on the exploration of the themes of life, justice and peace will help in the widening of perspectives on the assembly theme, deepening of inter-religious sensitivity and strengthening of inter-religious relations between Buddhists and Christians in the Asian context
Power With Others
9th May 2013
Asian Ecumenical Course 2013 (AEC) commenced as scheduled with an Opening Worship Service on 9th May 2013, the day we ‘commemorate and celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven’. The liturgy of the worship was prepared by STTJ and Dr. Ester Pujo and the sermon was delivered by Rev. Dr. Joas Adiprasetya. This was followed by Greetings and Welcome by Rev. Gomar Gultom, General Secretary of the CCI.
In the sermon titled “Two Paradigms of Ascension” Rev. Dr. Joas Adiprasetya spoke about the two perspectives of Ascension. One named the paradigm of “aboveness” that believes in the Theology of superiority and exclusiveness, because it sees Ascension as a glorious event that crowned Jesus as the King of Kings, and the other as “the paradigm of beyondness.” In such a paradigm, the event of Jesus’ ascension must be taken seriously as a credo that Jesus—the Word incarnate in a particular time and place—was now freeing himself from being attached to some cultural, historical, and even gender definitions.
The Ascension Day he said, “is therefore a celebration of diversity and multiplicity, since Jesus of Nazareth is now present in his Spirit in Bangkok, Manila, Yogyakarta, and other places in Asia. In this sense, we come to the creative and imaginative relationship between incarnation and ascension. On the one hand, ascension has saved incarnation from the danger of exclusivizing one single particular place and time. On the other hand, incarnation must always be a reminder that the Jesus that we believe is not the Jesus who rules over all the universe from above, dis-embracing humanity and materiality”.
Speaking about the AEC he said “As we are starting our fellowship today for the next thirteen days, each of us is invited to ponder the creative meaning of Jesus’ ascension as a theological basis for celebrating God’s life-giving power to the multiplicity of God’s beloved world. The power demonstrated in Jesus’ ascension is not the power-over others. On the contrary, it is the power-with others. Liturgically speaking, I believe, we need to wait for the next ten days, when we celebrate Pentecost, to get the key of understanding Jesus’ ascension from the perspective of beyondness. It is the power of the Spirit becoming the Holy Guest visiting all nations, cultures, and religions, respecting all particularities, speaking with their own languages, and offering Jesus the Life-Giver, who has taken off from his own culture to embrace and to be embraced by each culture differently, uniquely, and joyfully”.
Linking the understanding of Ascension from the perspective of beyondness, to the theme of the AEC “Called to be Life giver to the world” he said, “If this is the case, then we are also invited as Jesus’ disciples to enact God’s hospitality in our own contexts. If God in Christ has become the divine Host and welcomes all nations and cultures, it is our call to welcome our neighbors respectfully. If God in the Spirit has become the divine Guest to all nations and cultures, it is our call to humble ourselves, trying to listen to their songs of Life that God had composed even long before God’s only Son incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. Let the divine creative exchange of being Guest and Host become our guidance throughout these coming days. Amen”. (Acts 1: 6-11)
Rev Gomar Gultom, General Secretary, CCI/PGI, welcomed the participants of the AEC 2013, on behalf of the Executive Board of PGI and the churches in Indonesia. Welcoming them to the oldest ecumenical theological seminary in Indonesia, that has been the milesone of the ecumenical movement in Indonesia he said “I hope you have been well rested and ready to participate in all activities of the AEC for the next 2 weeks in this beautiful seminary”. He said that the AEC 2013 was welcomed with enthusiasm by the churches in Indonesia.
He gave a brief description of the ecumenical movement in Indonesia and explained why the spirit of ecumenism was getting paralyzed – firstly due to ‘Institutionalism’, secondly, due to a proliferation in the number of churches and synods. Thirdly, there was a feeling of exclusiveness among member churches and attempts of “sheep stealing” also could not be ruled out. He also referred to tensions arising between other national Christian alliances like that of the Pentecostals and Evangelicals.
A possible solution was in the PGI-initiated movement of ‘Indonesia Christian Forum’, which unites all the churches in Indonesia: the ecumenical, evangelical and pentacostal into a procession a long ecumenical journey, without having to merge their respective institutions. Explaining this initiative he said “With intensive interaction and communication with all denominations, we tried to walk and work together in synergy. That’s the spirit that we want to celebrate through the Celebration of Unity; through which the churches in Indonesia welcomes General Assembly of WCC 2013 in Busan”.
He hoped that ecumenism would help people to stand united against all difficulties, like poverty, socio-religious conflicts and environmental degradation, and that it would lead to peace and justice and make the world a safe place to live in. He concluded by hoping that through this AEC the participants could share their faith journey, have a nice learning experience and enjoy Indonesia!
Called to be Life Giver to the World (John 10:10)
Asian Ecumenical Course
Jakarta Theological Seminary,Jakarta, Indonesia
8-21 May 2013
The Asian Ecumenical Course (AEC) is all set to commence on 8th May 2013, at the Jakarta Theological Seminary, Jakarta, Indonesia. This 2-week training is an annual ecumenical formation program of the Christian Conference of Asia which has been conducted since 1976 for the formation of ecumenical leadership from CCA member churches and councils. The course has four components namely: (a) analysis of Asian realities, (b) ecumenical vision based on biblical and theological reflections, (c) community building, and (d) leadership training. These four components intertwine to provide the atmosphere and direction for the participants of the AEC to plant the seeds of wider ecumenical vision in their ministries and to empower them as ecumenical leaders in Asia.
The theme of AEC 2013 is “Called to be Life Giver to the World” which will also explore issues related to the theme of the 10th Assembly of World Council of Churches ‘God of Life, Lead us to Justice and Peace’ . It is hoped that this course will equip participants to discern the will of God of life in our ministries for justice and peace.
One of the highlights of AEC 2013 is that the participants will have the opportunity to attend a major event celebrating Christian unity in Indonesia. This event, titled “The Celebration of Unity: A Congregational Celebration for Witnessing together God’s Life, Justice and Peace” at National Stadium GeloraBungKarno, is also a gesture of welcoming the WCC Assembly to Asia.
25 participants from CCA member churches and related organizations will be attending this course. They are also expected to be interested in widening their ecumenical perspectives and to share their knowledge when they return to their respective countries.
Rationale: Ecumenism is commonly defined as a movement promoting unity among Christian churches and denominations, through greater co-operation and improved understanding. Ecumenism is therefore a willingness to be part of an ever-widening and expanding fellowship that is both cross-denominational and cross-cultural, and cuts across geographic, political and economic boundaries, while remaining rooted in one’s own faith, view-points and theological perspectives. Ecumenism seeks a paradigm shift from an exclusive community to a more inclusive human community that embraces Oikumene, which means all the inhabitants of the earth, or all of God’s creation.
Today many people and communities in Asia and around the world, are crying for peace and justice out of their experiences of injustice in various aspects of their lives. The horrors of wars, conflicts, and cultures of vengeance create a senseless cycle of violence, trauma, and grief. We have observed the growing tensions and escalating conflicts in Asian and global societies which lead to social disintegration. The threat of nuclear power is inevitable. In many places in Asia, people are bearing the brunt of dreadful ecological disasters that displace people and increase the occurrences of epidemics. In the midst of these signs of death, churches in Asia are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10) In the midst of these mounting challenges, the followers of Christ are called to participate in God’s life giving ministry that brings justice and peace to all creation.
AEC 2013 seeks to highlight the need of a life-giving ministry which involves justice and peace and challenges younger leaders to respond to these issues. It is an opportunity to equip them to develop life-giving ministries of resolving conflict, discrimination, terror and violence among people, with peace initiatives and by being sensitive to natural disasters and ecological imbalances.
Content: Apart from the key note address on the theme “Called to be Life-giver to the World” by Rev. Dr. Soritua Nababan, and an open lecture by Rev. Dr. Olav F. Tveit, General Secretary of World Council of Churches on the subject “The Call of Churches to Promote Life, Justice and Peace in a Pluralistic Society”, the AEC will explore a wide range of subjects ranging from Ecumenism; Geo-Political situation in Asia and the role of religion; Indonesian Realities and Churches’ Responses; Interfaith issues; Role of Religions in Promoting Peace with Justice; conflict transformation; gender justice; health issues like HIV and AIDS; to Ecology and environmental issues. Human Dignity with special focus on the Perspectives on Indigenous People, Migrants, Minorities and the Disabled is included to create awareness and also enrich the knowledge of the participants.
Activities: The participants will be given space to share their life journeys and share country-wise concerns so that there is a wide spectrum of experiences and stories from Asia, that will help in ‘Understanding Asian realities’. Exposure visits to Mission fields aim to give them an understanding of Indonesian life and some of the issues that are being addressed by churches, NGOs and Civil Society. Worshipping in the churches at Jakarta aims at building fellowship with brothers and sisters in the local church congregations, and encouraging an Asian ecumenical outlook, that sees Asian Christians as one body in Christ. They will also present a ‘Personal Action Plan’ as a forward looking strategy for the promotion of Ecumenism in their own countries.
Musical Presentation by the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music on March 25, 2013
General Assembly of ATESEA 2013
The Association for Theological Education in South East Asia, known as ATESEA, held its General Assembly from 24–27 March 2013, at Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Silang, Cavite, the Philippines. It was attended by about 60 participants representing school members and ecumenical partners of ATESEA. The Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) which has a long relationship with ATESEA was invited to this Assembly and was represented by Rev. Jung Eun Moon Grace, Executive Secretary for Faith, Mission and Unity (FMU).
During the opening ceremony of the ATESEA, ecumenical partners represented by Dr. Stephen Guptill, President of AIIAS; Canon Peter Ng, Chairperson of Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (FTESEA); Dr. Joseph Shao, General Secretary of Asia Theological Association (ATA); Rev. Jung Eun Moon Grace of CCA; Dr. Lal Tin Hre, Executive Director of Association for Theological Education in Myanmar; and Dr. Mohan Labeer of Board of Trustees of the Senate of Serampore College (BTSSC), conveyed their greetings to the delegates.
The discussions that took place during the General Assembly included an overall evaluation on the current programs of ATESEA, such as Accreditation, Teachers’ Academy, ATU D. Th. Program, Conference for Heads of Theological Schools, Publication of Asia Journal of Theology and Professional Development for Libraries. The difficulties many member schools are facing in getting Government recognition for the ATU Doctoral degrees were discussed in detail. In addition, the relevance and role of ATU D Th. Program was discussed, especially because many member schools were starting their own doctoral program. Another issue addressed by the Assembly was the question on how to develop ATESEA as a self-supportive organization in the context of the rapidly changing global landscape of theological education.
The new Board of Trustees of ATESEA elected by the Assembly comprises:
Dr. Ngoei Foong Nghian, Trinity Theological College, Singapore
Dr. Simon Chow, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong
Dr. Joyce Abugan, Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Ezra Kok, SeminariTheoloji Malaysia
Dr. JoasAdiprasetya, Jakarta Theological Seminary
Dr. Samuel Ngun Ling, Myanmar Institute of Theology
Dr. Ching, Kapi Ming-sheng, Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary, Taiwan
Dr. Chuleepran Srisoontorn, McGilvary College of Divinity, Payap University, Chiangmai, Thailand
Dr. Karolina Augustien Kaunang, Fakultas Theologi, Indonesia Christian University, Tomohon (UKIT)
The Association for Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA) is an organization of seminaries and other tertiary institutes of theology. Its office is in Manila, Philippines and currently has a network of 102 member institutions and schools in 16 Asian countries. It also acts as an accreditation agency for theological education in the South East Asian region. The present Executive Director of ATESEA is Dr. Limuel Equina, Ph.D. from the Philippines.
Rev. Jung Eun Moon Grace
Executive Secretary for FMU
11 March 2013
Statement of the
Conference of Muslim-Christian Religious Leaders of Asia
Held in Jakarta, February 25 -March 1, 2013
Striving Together in Love
Towards Common Action
Solidarity and Collaboration in Asia, Generating the Needed Synergy
“Love God, Love Neighbour, Love all Creation”
God the Almighty be praised for bringing us, 141 Muslim and Christian leaders from 16 countries of Asia, together for this historic Conference in Jakarta, February 25 – March 1, 2013. We spent four full days listening to one another and reflecting deeply about the helpful role that Religion can play in the present day of difficulties on the Global scene, but more particularly in the region of Asia.
We confess that we have been profoundly impressed by the open letter of October 13, 2007 by 138 eminent Muslim scholars and intellectuals addressed to all the leaders of the Christian Churches on the theme A Common Word at the initiative of Prince Ghazi ibn Muhammad of Jordan. This has proved to be the most outstanding dialogue-initiative of our times, and which has won wide acceptance by the religious leaders of various traditions.
By the Common Word is meant the core teaching of the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible about the Love of God and Love of one’s neighbour, often called the Golden Rule, which provides a common ground for Muslims and Christians to work together for peace and harmony in this violence-torn world today.
Recalling the Conference held in Manila in 2003 on “Peace and Development”, we the participants of this Conference chose to focus our deliberations on the theme “Bringing a Common Word to Common Action”. This is an expression of our commitment to the cause of peace in Asia during the Third Millennium through a common effort for justice and solidarity among all the peoples and nations of this Continent. This endeavour also allows religion to serve as an agent for ushering in a New Civilization of love and peace.
Asian concerns today are not only about poverty and threat to the environment, but also the danger that a vision of human realities grounded on Religious Faith is being eroded in these fast changing times. Similarly, as Asian economy is gaining strength on the world scene, inequality also keeps increasing within our society. This gives rise to tensions between classes and communities and threatens stability within the region.
We, the Muslim and Christian leaders of Asia, affirm our commitment to bringing the Common Word into Common Action by intensifying our effort for peace and justice, trying to prevent violence in contexts of tension and facilitate dialogue or mediate agreement in situations of conflicts.
Therefore, We the Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders of Asia, affirm that:
- We will do all we can to help our brothers and sisters to understand that genuine religion is meant to enlighten believers with regard to the nature of God and their duty to their fellow human beings and the rest of creation. It is a great tragedy when people make a negative use of religion for their own selfish ends. Conflicts that have been attributed to religious causes have actually been engendered by various imbalances in society, or, because adherents to a particular religion had not understood the full implication of their faith. They ought to be guided and assisted rather than condemned and marginalized.
- The teaching about the Love of God and Love of Neighbour, derived from the Common Word, which we have called the Golden Rule, will also help us to integrate universally accepted values with those cherished in local traditions. In times of uncertainty or anxiety during inter-cultural interactions, the deepening of people’s religious convictions and strengthening of their confidence in sound indigenous wisdom can help them to develop a holistic view of life and reality.
- The process of globalization and rapid evolution of society are blessings for humanity, but they can also lead religious or ethnic groups within nation states to question mutual relationships. These may consequently have to be re-structured according to newly emerging needs. But we believe that if human dignity is respected, human values are promoted, and the path dialogue remains open, conflict can be avoided in every circumstance. Freedom of religion is one of the basic human rights that call for special attention in the context of Asia.
- Uncritical acceptance of Liberal Capitalism can lead to situations of gross inequality, especially if it means uncontrolled monopolies and totally un-regulated market mechanisms. Even free enterprise should be socially responsible. Problems like poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition or HIV/AIDS are the common concern of all, especially of those who have more resources to be of assistance.
- Even when conflicts are attributed to religious causes, almost in all cases they can be traced to some political, economic, or social grievances. It is the mission of Muslim and Christian scholars and religious leaders to keep studying the social scenario, interpreting trends and cautioning society about adopting policies that can compromise common interests. Their foresight can help to prevent the outbreak of violence and their persuasive skills can smoothen out a path for constructive dialogue and suggest relevant solutions. They can propagate concepts and relationships that are inclusive.
- There is a growing awareness of environmental problems in Asia today, e.g. the danger of polluting water or air, degrading soil, emitting carbon, or over-tapping natural resources. Greater social inclusion will be required to ensure that nature is respected and sustainable styles of living and working are maintained.
- The mass migration of workers to urban centres within a country or to other economically more advanced countries in search of jobs is destabilising families and communities in Asia. In addition, human trafficking, especially of women and children, raises innumerable social and communal problems. The religious leaders of the two communities must find ways of being of assistance to families and communities that are left behind and to workers who are exploited or whose rights are being violated.
- Corruption at every level of society is a cause for serious anxiety in most countries of Asia. Both Muslims and Christians must join hands together, tapping the spiritual resources of their faith and strengthening the values of good governance and the mechanisms of efficient administration, to root out this evil from society. Religious believers ought to act as a moral force in society. It is for the younger generation to take this challenge forward.
- We know that the above mentioned goals can be achieved only if all religious communities make it their aim to preserve values that are considered precious in Asian cultures like religiosity, the sense of the sacred, respect for life, attachment to tradition, and concern for the common good. A path of moderation and a pedagogy of persuasion are more in keeping with the Asian genius than the use of force or mutual denunciation.
- Equally important is to attend to the healing of memories with reference to the painful events that have taken place in the common history of the two communities and to forgive all past injuries. Memories of mutual help and collaboration are to be cherished. As religious leaders we promise to play a helpful role in this respect.
We do recognize that in our shared history we have often experienced painful encounters rather than harmonious living together. We have frequently misunderstood one another and this has resulted in suspicion and lack of positive commitment from either side. Therefore, this invitation to practise the dual commandment to love is a bold step towards fresh perspectives in Christian-Muslim relations. It also serves as a catalyst for new initiatives to move beyond tolerance and mere coexistence, to accepting the other in love and respect.
As we conclude this Conference, we commit ourselves to share the fruit of our discussions with our co-religionists in our respective places and follow it up with the needed action. We also resolve to preserve and propagate the spirit of collaboration, mutual respect and understanding among people for the benefit of all humankind and the whole of creation. It falls on the younger generation to take this mission forward.
We acknowledge the thoughtful initiative of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) which was warmly welcomed by the International Conference of Muslim Scholars (ICIS) in Indonesia, Indonesian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KWI), and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) who have jointly collaborated in hosting this conference. We appreciate their warm hospitality and their hard work to organize this conference. We whole heartedly thank those funding partners, solely because of whose generosity this conference was even possible. We express our deep appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, particularly the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Governor of Jakarta, and the people of Indonesia for their assistance in making this conference a success.
To God the Almighty be the glory for what we have been able to achieve together during the few days of intense reflection and prayer, and may God guide us into the path of action and service.
February 28, 2013
Worship Service for World AIDS Day 2012: Towards the “three zeros” in faith, commitment and love
Worship Service for World AIDS Day 2012: Towards the “three zeros” in faith, commitment and love
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
posted by communications on Saturday, December 01, 2012
Dalit Liberation Sunday
 Franciscan Benediction
posted by communications on Wednesday, November 28, 2012
22 November 2012
Ecumenical Enablers Training inspires ‘Unity of Churches, more pastoral training, need for a Theological seminary and Bible in native Tetun language’…….
An Ecumenical Enablers Training held in Timor Lorosa’e, introduced to participants from the Protestant churches, the ecumenical vision and mission of the CCA, and its role in promoting unity, not only among the churches but also among people of Asia through the reconciling and healing ministries of the church.
CCA has been proactive in training pastors, church leaders, youth and women leaders through very intensive courses in similar contexts in Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam.