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Message from the General Secretary

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgsSince our last newsletter, our activity has been diverse and enriching.

During last week, I travelled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a regional consultation organized by the Christian Conference of Asia. Towards Revitalising the Ecumenical Movement in Asia engaged the sixty participants.

Neither clear responses nor strategies emerged. In fact, I do not recall hearing anyone name any strategy. What I heard was people speaking of how it is for their church or council in their situation.

While recognizing the challenges facing us in Australia, it also found that the situation of the churches in Australia calls out for great thanksgiving and hope. 

Representatives of many churches and councils spoke of the Christians being a minority within their country. Islam is the majority religion in Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh; Theravada Buddhism is the majority religion in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand; Hinduism is the majority religion in India and Nepal.  Representatives from each of these countries spoke of their experience.

In some countries, e.g.Philippines, Catholics constitute a majority of the population. This results in a situation where the Catholic Church is not a member of the Council of Churches. The reason for this is similar to the reason for the Catholic Church not being a member of the World Council of Churches: the numbers of Catholics could prevent the smaller churches and ecclesial communities from having a voice. 

Specific concerns of the churches were named: human trafficking, migration and statelessness, extremism in the Philippines. National concerns were also raised: the Korean peninsula, the situation of Bhutan, a country of less than a million people, without a strong economy. Although not mentioned, the presence of a representative from East Timor served as a continual reminder to me of the treatment of East Timor by Australia - treatment that appears to me as less than just.

I came away with three challenges:

  • Being the only Australian present challenged me to think of Australia as part of Asia – a framework that does not come naturally to me. So I am challenged to try to walk in the shoes of others, grow in understanding of them and hold them in my heart and prayer .
  • The situation of West Papua was not raised during the consultation.  Nor did any person speak of the situation of indigenous people in their country. It is so easy to remain silent about ‘difficult topics’.  We must speak in support of our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well as those of other countries. 
  • Considering ‘Revitalising ecumenism in Asia’ challenges me to consider seriously the issue in Australia. It is so easy to speak around the topic without moving to make changes. Can the churches of NCCA both individually and together seriously take up this challenge? More importantly, do we want to revitalise ecumenism in Australia?

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

General Secretary

 

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