More than 40 church leaders and diakonia specialists from 15 Asian countries participated in training in ecumenical diakonia and development organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Chiang Mai, Thailand from 4-7 December.
The seminar “Human Resources and Leadership Development for Diakonia and Development” was offered in cooperation between the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia, and took place at the offices of the Christian Conference of Asia.
Topics of the seminar included diakonia as prophetic witness, the ecumenical response to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, rights of women and children, leadership development, organisational and human resources management, and strategic planning.
Presentations on people’s participation in development were made by the Church Agency for Rural Development of the Mar Thoma Church in India, the Social Empowerment Vision in Action of the Church of South India and the Social Health and Education Development Board of the Bangladesh Baptist Church Sangha. The WCC’s Thursdays in Black campaign for a world free from rape and violence was highlighted and promoted.
This is the fourth seminar on capacity building for diakonia and development initiated by the WCC this year. Three previous seminars took place in Bénin, Kenya and Mozambique in conjunction with the All Africa Conference of Churches.
“This capacity building seminar has been part of the 2019 focus on Asia in the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace,” said Rev. Matthew Ross, WCC programme executive for Diakonia and Capacity Building. “Christ’s message of life in all its fullness (John 10:10) has been an underlying theme of this seminar, particularly in the context of Christianity as a minority religion in most of Asia.”
Being a collaborative project between the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia, the seminar has been an important opportunity for training in ecumenical diakonia and development in both Asian and global contexts, added Ross. “Friendships and opportunities for ecumenical cooperation have been forged, as well as sharing of vital knowledge in advancing work in development and diakonia.”
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, outlined ecumenical perspectives on diakonia. He stated that the challenge of diakonia has always been to encourage moving from a charity-model approach to justice, and leap over national and ecumenical frontiers to respond to local and global issues, and to be prophetic and transformative, partnering in God’s mission.
“In Asia’s diverse contexts, where there is a widening of economic and social disparities, where there is a reduction in the sustainability of economic growth, and where the fragility of ecological balance is further accentuated, churches need to be equipped in the real witness of diakonia,” said Chunakara. “Churches must cover a wide spectrum of engagement: from advocacy and care for the marginalized to participation and solidarity in struggles for justice and responsible stewardship of creation.”