Thursday, 14 May 2020

Asian Churches uniting in hope

Written by Rev Dr Apwee Ting

The Christian Conference of Asia is working through the COVID-19 crisis by engaging its membership through a series of online conferences and webinars.

I attended the second of a series of CCA events "Churches in Asia responding to the COVID-19 Crisis" on 7 May 2020.

The virtual conference saw engagement from 100 registered participants and also had an audience of over 4,000 viewers who observed the proceedings via the CCA’s social media platforms.

In his opening address, CCA General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara, said very clearly that: “The spread of COVID-19 has exposed our inadequacies in catering to the most vulnerable in our midst, and it is vital to re-examine the role of our churches in this new world”.

We then listened from eight leaders from different traditions and countries:

  • Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, the Prelate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Iran
  • Metropolitan Dr Yakob Mar Irenaios, the Chairperson of the Churches’ Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) in India
  • Bishop Leo Paul, from the Church of Pakistan
  • Rev. Jacky Manuputty, the General Secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI)
  • Fr. William (Bill) LaRousse, the Deputy General Secretary of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC)
  • Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines
  • Dr Sawako Fujiwara, from the Lutheran Theological Seminary/Rikkyo University in Japan; and.
  • Archbishop Dr Willem T.P. Simarmata, the Moderator of the CCA.

There was widespread acknowledgement of the inequality in health systems and employment opportunities between city and rural areas; and between developing and developed countries.

I was struck by information from India that claimed COVID-19 had affected more than 80% of the informal economy and forced 60% of the country's internal migration.

Asian churches say they are responding to the plight of labourers, workers and migrants, many of whom have lost their income and are unable to access health care.

It was a very clear message that in midst of COVID-19, that the our brother and sister churches are walking alongside people in their suffering and offering hope, compassion and justice.

Highlights of the webinar have been psoted on YouTube.

Dr Mathews George Chunakara also brought to our attention the Asia Sunday liturgy for 24 May 2020 prepared by the CCA in context of the global pandemic. Focused on the theme, “God, Heal Us as We are Vulnerable.” The special liturgy contains prayers for the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CCA has more webinars coming up over the next few weeks centring on various issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and its impacts.

Other webinars in include ‘Upholding the Rights and Dignity of Children amidst the COVID-19 Crisis’ (19 May 2020); ‘The Impact of COVID-19 Crisis on Women in Asia: Vital Needs and Post-Crisis Recovery’ (21 May 2020); and ‘Food Security: Will the world face more deaths due to hunger or COVID-19?’ (28 May 2020).