Kottayam, India: The General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), currently underway in Kottayam from 28 September to 3 October, featured engaging and insightful components by way of the deliberative ‘Churcha’ sessions, which took place on 1 October, Sunday.
‘Churcha’, a local term derived from different Indian languages that means ‘conversation’, ‘discussion’, or ‘sharing’, was the methodology for deliberative sessions in groups to facilitate ecumenical dialogue on pertinent theological, missiological, social, and geopolitical issues and themes. Participants had the opportunity to select from a diverse range of fifteen topics based on their expertise and interests.
The discussions at the fifteen sessions were considered as vital components of the Assembly in shaping the future endeavours of the CCA’s programmes and projects. Delegates and participants chose subjects from a diverse range of topics based on their expertise and interests.
Expert resource persons and speakers guided the dialogues, aiding in the development of focused outcomes that promised to enrich the CCA’s priorities for the years ahead. The Churcha sessions were conducted at three distinguished venues: the Orthodox Theological Seminary, the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, and the CMS College in Kottayam.
The Churcha on ‘Responsible Stewardship and Participation in God's Mission of Renewal and Restoration of Creation’ took place at the CMS College Great Hall. The facilitators, Fr. Dr K.M. George and Rev. Dr Deonal Sonaga, the Moderator Rev. Dr Kim Sungjae, and the Rapporteur Dss. Blessy Grace M. De Leon, with 36 other delegate participants discussed the proposition that “the church must concentrate on the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in its fullness here and now”. Through this session, Asian churches could lead the way in contextual theological responses focused on the sustainability, renewal, and restoration of creation.
The Churcha on ‘Eco-Spirituality and Liturgical Innovation: An Asian Theological Appraisal’ was held at the Mar Thoma Seminary Classroom. Rev. Dr Mothy Varkey and Rev. Christian Tanduk Langi were the facilitators, Rev. Ko Kwok Hung, Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China, was the moderator, and Ms Nubpron Panya, Church of Christ in Thailand, was the rapporteur; along with them 33 other delegates participated in this Churcha. A highlighting concept was that the church and the mission of God are not two separate entities, indicating that the church exists solely to participate in the Creator's mission. This session discussed questions like “Is creation celebrated in our worship services? How does our liturgy help us spiritually and morally to live in ways that honour the earth?”
‘Climate Crisis Mitigation and Adaptation: Environmental Sustainability in God's Oikos’ was a session led by Ms Yueh-Wen Lu, the moderator, Dr F Mathew Eben, the rapporteur, and Ms Juliate Keya Malakar and Md Foezullah Talukdar, the facilitators. Held at the CMS College Theatre, the session included 29 other delegates discussing how environmental calamities have brought adversities to millions. The keynote of this session was that “mitigation and adaptation must be emphasised in people's responses to climate change”. The churches, partnering with governments, multilateral organisations, and development agencies have a stake in helping people tackle these issues.
‘Eco-Anxiety: Churches in Asia Engaging to Address Health and Healing’, held in Orthodox Seminary. The moderators Rev. Dr Tertius Yunias Lantigimo and Gereja Kristen Sulawesi Tengah with rapporteur Ms Ma Kay Catherine Almario, and facilitators Dr Renji Mathew, Dr Suman Varghese Sam led the session. ‘Eco-anxiety’ refers to a variety of difficult emotions and mental states that are significantly related to environmental problems and ‘climate anxiety’ referring to the climate change-related forms of eco-anxiety were highlighted, while the role of churches in providing a space for the wellness of minds and bodies of people through community initiatives was discussed. This included maximizing the potential of healthcare institutions of churches and providing pastoral care and support for emotional and mental well-being, thus, promoting authentic and holistic health and healing.
‘Dwelling in Harmony with Creation: Indigenous People in Asia’, held at the Orthodox Seminary with facilitators Rev. Dr Jacklevyn Frits Manuputty and Pangernungba Kechu, the moderator Ms Rowan Tautari, and rapporteur Mr Imran Mrong, emphasised the importance of recognising the struggles faced by indigenous people in maintaining their traditional way of life and their role in protecting the environment. Indigenous people have a deep connection to the land and have more traditional knowledge and practices that enable them to live sustainably for generations. The discussion addressed the need for recognising the knowledge, wisdom, and practices of indigenous communities.
‘Welcoming The Stranger: Displacement, Stateless and Trafficking in Persons’, held at the Mar Thoma Seminary, with the Moderator Ms Minnie Ann M. Calub, the rapporteur Ms Asai Soror, and the facilitators Ms Yusmiati Vistamika Wangka, Rev. Jollify Daniel, David Nigel Perry Brohier, discussed practical ways to support and aid asylum seekers who are being forcefully displaced and ways to help victims of trafficking. The discussion also aimed to bring up awareness about the issue and discussed strategies for advocating their rights and promoting their dignity as human beings.
‘God’s Design for Life and Human Dignity: Practical Application of Bioethics’ at CMS College Kottayam was based on the biblical account that human beings are “made in the image of God”. The facilitators were Rev. Dr T. Aruldhas and Dr Manoj Kurien. The moderator was Rev. Dr Kang-Hee Han, and the rapporteur was Dr Anna Alisha Mathew Simon. The discussion asserted that all human beings possess an inherent and inalienable dignity and worthiness. Implying although humans are made in God's image, we are not divine ourselves; we are creatures, not creators. It was reflected from the biological, ethical, and theological perspective of God's design for human life.
‘Resilience of Ecosystems for the Sustainability of Creation: Towards Life-Giving Agriculture in Asia’, held at the Orthodox Theological Seminary, stressed the importance of the Life-Giving Agricultural movement which helps promote sustainable agricultural practices to promote healthy ecosystems, support rural communities, and achieve sustainable livelihoods in Asia. The facilitators of this discussion were Mr Jaehak An, Mr Junyoung Kim, Rev. Kyeong Ho Han, Rev. Won Young Lee, and Rev. Daniel Premkumar. The moderator was Rev. Dr A. Joshuva Peter and the rapporteur for this discussion was S. Karen Erina Puimera. The discussion explored the advantages of the movement which provides improved food security and contributes to the health and resilience of ecosystems, exploring the role and responsibilities of the churches in addressing sustainable livelihoods in Asia and advocacy towards food for all.
The summary of discussions and recommendations will be used for setting strategic programme plans in the post-Kottayam Assembly period.
For more photos (photo gallery) please click here: Churcha Sessions, 1 October 2023