By Claus Grue
More than 400 representatives of member churches and partner bodies from 28 countries in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, headed home on 27 May from an exciting week in Jakarta, Indonesia after attending the Christian Conference of Asia's (CCA) 14th General Assembly.
Along with agenda formalities, such as reviewing the work of the CCA in the past five years, amending its constitution and electing new members to committees, the Assembly was a dialogue and discussions forum.
The theme "Living together in the Household of God" provided opportunities for networking, sharing knowledge, ideas and concerns, a perfect venue for renewing old acquaintances and meeting new friends from near and far.
The member churches in the CCA represent the diversity of the Asia Pacific region with voices from areas such as East Asia, South Asia, South East Asia and Australasia.
Voices from the Assembly:
Connecting with local church life
Korean ecumenist Rev. Dr Min Heui Cheon sees connecting regional church groups meetings with the local church life as a challenge.
Dr Min is Executive Secretary, Ecumenical Relations Department at The Presbyterian Church in The Republic of Korea.
"Local communities are where the work is done and we need to connect with the grassroots, then pilgrimage of justice and peace can be a reality,” she says.
Developing relations to help deal with global issues
Relations developed at CCA conferences help in dealing with global crises, says Rev. Arshad Gill, general secretary of Presbyterian Church in Pakistan.
The church has some 300,000 members in Muslim-dominated Pakistan where Christianity is the largest minority religion.
"Relations developed in conferences like this are important in order to deal with global crises and issues and sharing faith and worship," says Gill.
Representing 350 pastors, mainly in rural areas in Pakistan, he feels good about the spiritual support from fellow Christians.
And Gill mentions plenty of urgent projects in Pakistan, such as schools, sewing centres, elimination of illiteracy, agricultural projects, etc. that need to be dealt with.
"The interfaith work is of course very important as well.” he notes.
Widening horizons to gain awareness of the world
For Indonesian pastor, Rev. H.W.B. Sumakul, regional meetings such as the CCA Assembly help him to find ways to counter the effects of globalization.
Sumakul is president of the Synod executive Board of The Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa, Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia, and feels it is critical to continue to strengthen relationships within the CCA.
"It is important in terms of enriching and widening our horizons of ministry to be aware of what´s going on in the world, especially in Asia.
"I appreciate the awareness of different issues that has emerged through the CCA, but a lot of work remains to be done regarding the implementation of programmes where there is room for improvements in terms of control and follow-up,” he says.
He asserts there is a need to find ways of coping with and countering the "effects of globalization, such as growing tensions, HIV, etc.
"We must be alert internationally about radical movements and we must push governments to do their best to protect citizens, with support from the church," says Sumakul.
The church must also be engaged in upgrading the social and economic level of society, because poverty breeds criminality.
Taking home signals from Asia
The Rev. Andrew Norton, from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, says he brings back home from the CCA Assembly a powerful signal for New Zealand to be seen as part of Asia.
"The issues Asia is facing are ones that we are all facing, like the radicalization of religion, which shouldn’t be neglected in New Zealand.
"Being part of the CCA means that we stay together on these issues. A united voice from the CCA will be vital against oppressive regimes in Asia. It is vital for New Zealand to take part in that conversation," asserts Norton.
He sees the conversations and networking are of prime value at the conference.
"In terms of business I see a need for the CCA to be reformed from top down, which hopefully will happen with the new constitution," he says.