Can you give us a brief update on how the Pacific churches are preparing for the upcoming assembly?
Bhagwan: The Pacific Conference of Churches, in recognition of the guidelines for relationships and cooperation between WCC and the Regional Ecumenical Organisations, is happy to facilitate the pre-assembly meetings for the Pacific, particularly during these times of restricted international and regional travel.
The first of these preparatory meetings will be a briefing for Pacific church leaders during their upcoming quarterly dialogue in July. This will also be an opportunity for reports on the recent WCC central committee and an update on the preparations for the WCC 11th Assembly, scheduled for 31 August to 8 September 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany.
What will be the theme of the meetings you plan to have?
Bhagwan: In the spirit of ecumenism and our commitment to the Pacific household of God, the initial meetings and discussions will be open to all Pacific Conference of Churches members to ensure inclusive dialogue, that key Pacific issues such as human rights, climate justice, gender-based violence and disaster risk reduction, are considered and well presented in the assembly and that delegates and participants make the most of the opportunities offered in the assembly to share our Pacific voice and gifts.
In what way are you involving the youth in these preparations?
Bhagwan: In particular, we look to build on the participation by youth in the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan and to share Pacific perspectives on ecological stewardship and climate justice; economic, social, cultural and political self-determination; ecumenism and gender-equality during the 11th Assembly. Some of the young people have also applied for the Stewards Programme. We continue to accompany, pray and encourage our youth in any way possible so that they can carry on the work of the pilgrimage of justice and peace in the coming generations.
What is the biggest challenge in terms of preparing for the assembly?
Bhagwan: The biggest challenge at the moment continues to be being able to gather to meet due to border closures and being spread out by the vast Pacific Ocean that forms our liquid continent. Moving forward to the actual assembly, we can see that the travel costs, to go halfway around the world to bring our Pacific pilgrimage of justice and peace to the assembly will be a challenge. However, we are people of faith and hope and love and so we will prepare for the assembly in faith that the Holy Spirit will blow in our sail of our ecumenical canoe to help us reach the assembly, where we will offer gifts of hope, and we will move in Christ's love, which so often manifests in the Pacific as radical hospitality.
What is the inspiration behind the 12-month period preparations?
Bhagwan: This, we hope, will make up for the postponement of many planned programmes and activities of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace focus on the Pacific in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many of our WCC family were not able to come to the Pacific to voyage with us on the pilgrimage, we hope to bring our Pacific “canoe” to Karlsruhe in 2022 so that delegates and participants can voyage with us during and beyond the 11th WCC Assembly.