The Ecumenical Asia-Pacific Students and Youth Network (EASYNet) organized the National Coordinator’s Training at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 3-8. The training’s theme was: “Ecumenical Communities: Our Lives, Experiences, and Aspirations” The six day training programme was attended by 20 delegates including the EASYNet Coordinating Team (CT) members. The National Ecumenical Team (NET) Coordinators who attended the training were: Alison Baroi, Bangladesh; Eric Attique, Pakistan; Niran Fernando, Sri Lanka; Kristina Lydia, Indonesia; Ann Beatrice, Malaysia; Tun Tun, Myanmar; Johanna Dela Cruz, Philippines; Kitty Tsang, Hong Kong; and Byung Chul Pak from Korea.
The objectives of the training were: to deepen the National Coordinator’s biblical perspective and basis of ecumenical youth work and organizing; to provide venue for the NETs to share their experiences and challenges in building ecumenical network and practicing ecumenical cooperation towards mutual learning; to promote the social commitment of the ecumenical youth leaders in building action and international advocacy on social issues; to promote collective spirit and efforts among the NC towards improving ecumenical relations and openness to interfaith partnership; to evaluate and monitor the work of the NET organizing and sustaining through case studies in order to monitor the strength and recurring weaknesses; and to engage the NETs in contextual and collective planning with reference to the ASYG commitment.
Cristina Miranda, newly appointed Regional Coordinator of EASYNet, gave the orientation to the participants on the origin, structure and the significance of EASYNet in Asia and the Pacific and grassroots ecumenism. The national coordinators shared their programmes, issues, plans, and challenges during the report sharing session. Their sharing helped in understanding the situation of the NETs and how each NET is unique in its own context. This session was facilitated and synthesized by Maria Cristina A. Dalope, Executive Secretary for Programmes of Asia-Pacific Alliance of YMCAs.
Sunita Suna, Regional Women’s Coordinator of WSCF AP conducted a Bible Study on “Re reading the Bible from the feminist perspectives” from the text Luke 10:38-42. She said, “it’s important to re-read the Bible from feminist perspectives, as our scripture and the male centered theology has not acknowledged the contribution and leadership role of women in the Bible. The purpose of re-reading from different perspectives is to experience liberation and transformation.”
Dr. Yeoh Seng Guan, senior lecturer and senior friend of SCM Malaysia conducted a session on the History and Foundations of Ecumenism. Dr. Seng Guan gave historical facts to understand the need and origin of the Ecumenical Movement or Ecumenism and the prejudices conjoined to it by other groups. He said, however, “justice remains the heart of the ecumenical agenda. It calls for a spirituality of resistance and a politically engaged spirituality”. He also explained the emergence of Ecumenism and its relevance in Asia. To describe the Ecumenical Movement in Asia, he quoted D.T. Niles, “Christianity is a potted plant which needs to be rooted in the cultural soil of Asia”. He added, “instead of ecumenism from the top down, an ecumenical theology of the ‘wilderness’ can help us function according to a new social imagination from the ground up. This generation is already out there in the ‘wilderness’ connecting the dots of this new constellation weaving the strands of this web and creating new systems of meaning within this new paradigm with or without the church”.
Necta Montes Rocas, Regional Secretary of WSCF AP conducted the session on “Challenges and Prospects of Ecumenical Youth Movements.” In her session, she said, “today there is a “crisis” in the Ecumenical Movement, and the nature of the crisis is manifested in the institutional expression of the movement.” She mentioned the following challenges of the EYM, the culture of exclusivity as churches moves towards confessionalism and denominationalism; the changing political and economic context of the youth and students; conservatism and the growth spiritual movements, and the challenge of re-vitalizing the Ecumenical Movement. She emphasized that the ecumenical movement is alive, but is no longer church-led, it has in fact become a lay movement. The characteristics of the Ecumenical Movements in the 21st Century has been affected by the shift of the center of Christianity from North to South, and the growing engagement with the Orthodox, Pentecostal, Evangelicals. She also noted the direction of the movement towards wider Ecumenism (inter-faith cooperation), and focus on Ecumenical spirituality, from human centered to the whole inhabited Earth.
The workshops on Interfaith, Migration, Peace and Reconciliation were facilitated by Leonard Bonny Palma, Regional Secretary of IYCS, Adrian Pereira, Regional Secretary of IMCS and Necta. The workshops groups reflected on their experiences with the communities they visited during the exposure. They did critical analysis of the issues and interlink the different issues and challenges the communities are facing today.
Lesley Capus, senior friend of SCM Philippines, conducted sessions on “Ecumenical Communities: Organizing and Networking”. He shared some of the important skills in organizing and networking. He said, “community development is meaningless unless it is viewed in the context of the lives, experiences and aspirations of the majority of the people.” He mentioned three key values in community organizing. i.e Human Rights, Social Justice and Social Responsibility. The second session he conducted was on Biblical and Theological Experiences of Ecumenical Community Building where he drew the life experiences of Jesus with his community and set the model of Jesus as a community organizer. He said, “In the experience of Jesus Christ people were easily convinced to join his movement because they can identify with Jesus. And Jesus’ vision was to emancipate the people from their suffering and hapless conditions and to give the life abundantly.”
At the end of the programme the national coordinators met in a sub region for action plan according to their own context.