Asian Churches meet
Written by Rob Floyd, Assembly Associate General Secretary
This week the World Council of Churches (WCC) convened an online meeting of the Ecumenical Officers of the WCC-member churches across the Asian region. It brought together 20 people from Bangladesh, India, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, and was hosted by WCC staff in Geneva.
The meeting provided an opportunity to listen to each other and hear about the different contexts in each country, the experiences of member churches and how they are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges across the region. We were also encouraged to begin thinking and praying about the WCC Assembly to be held in Germany in 2022.
Sharing from across the region was important as each member church described the widely varying circumstances they were facing.
In India, the pandemic continues to grow in impact and severity whilst vaccinations are beginning to take place. Through this the churches have faced the challenge of not being able to meet regularly and not being able to celebrate Holy Communion. They told stories of Christians caring for the poor and needy in the communities around them, responding with love to the plight of others in great need.
Churches in Bangladesh described the multiple impacts of COVID-19, a cyclone and flooding as well as some interreligious conflict in which the churches are the minority and in some cases feeling threatened. In particular, the church has been concerned for the many people in Bangladesh who are paid by the day, and so if unable to work, are unable to buy the food and other necessities of life.
In Korea people have been following the government guidelines and like Australia, they have done relatively well in the face on COVID-19. The churches in Korea described their real concern and action in support of the people and the churches in Myanmar as it deals with the aftermath of the military coup.
There is a great diversity of concerns across Indonesia as members from across the archipelago nation reported on the recent devastation of Cyclone Soroja in the south east, through to the serious impacts on the pandemic in major cities like Jakarta where lockdowns have been in place for many. Conversely there was good news from rural communities who have been able to remain healthy and have been able to meet for worship and other church activities for most of the last year.
Listening to the sharing, I was reminded of how blessed Australia and New Zealand have been in our pandemic experience by comparison to many of our Asian neighbours. I was reminded of the richness and diversity of language, culture, religion and life in this vast region of which we are a part and the blessing it is to be connected to these churches, our sisters and brothers in Christ though our regional and global ecumenical networks.
I encourage all UCA members to take some time to find out more about the churches and their contexts in the Asian region and to uphold them in your prayers as they continue to face the challenges of COVID-19, natural disasters and human rights concerns.