October 4-25, 2009
(Deadline of Application: 1 September 2009)
The so-called “Ecumenical Landscape” is rapidly changing which has admittedly weakened the life andwitness of the Ecumenical Movement in the past years. One visible factor that has been acknowledged bythe WCC and CCA in their efforts to analyze the situation has been the decline of youth participation andinterest in the life of the churches and the ecumenical movement in particular. This observation needs tobe substantiated by understanding the context of the young people in the Churches today and the challengesthat hinders them from engaging the life of Churches and the Ecumenical Movement.
Youth and students comprising the majority of the population is Asia Pacific face specific difficulties relatedto their social sector. The rising cost of education due to privatization prevents them from pursuing higherlearning and fulfilling their dreams of better lives in the future. The orientation of the Educational Systemsin many countries in Asia and Pacific has changed dramatically over the years. Institutions of HigherEducation, both in developed and developing countries have been re-oriented to fulfil the demand of themarket economies, rather than nurturing the dreams, aspiration, intellect and development of knowledgeamong the youth.
This situation pushes young people to different directions, primarily to compete for greater achievementand material success on the one hand or take up the heavy burden and role of providing for their familieslike the majority of the young migrant workers in Asia today. An alarming trend has been that students havepractically limited or no time to engage in social causes as most of them are working to provide for theirown education in the University as education continues to be privatized in the developed countries. Failureto climb up the success ladder, gives rise to frustration, where cases of youth suicide are increasinglynoticeable in the past years.
This context has created a deep void and growing desire for spiritual fulfillment among the young. Thegrowth of the evangelical youth movements and spiritual revival movements represents a major shift in thenature of the Christian youth movements in the Asia Pacific region. Young people are leaving the mainlineprotestant and catholic churches and joining the spiritual movements. Veering away from the ‘old’ and the‘traditional’ is a popular culture among the young, and this is reinforced by media industry that promotesindividualism and mono-culture.
Churches reaction to this trend is varied, however there is a growing tendency to keep the young peopleworking within the denominational confines and prevent them from engaging meaningfully in theecumenical youth movement. This draws serious concern on the role, participation and leadership of theyouth in the churches, the ecumenical movement and society in general. The need to provide alternativesspaces and platforms where young people can engage meaningfully in the mission and ministry of theChurches are much greater in this age of economic globalization.
The Ecumenical Youth Movement (EYM) does not operate or exist outside the realities and context of theChurches and the world. The EYM is intrinsically part of the one Ecumenical Movement and should thereforerespond to the challenge of Revitalizing the Ecumenical Movement in the 21st Century.
The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) has actively involved and contributed to ecumenicalmovement through producing the much needed leadership in continuing and fulfilling the spirit of ecumenism. Hence WSCF believes in the importance to uphold ecumenism through the tradition of producingecumenical leaders for the churches and the ecumenical movement. However, this tradition is seen to beweakening at the present moment due to several reasons. One of the main reasons is that the ecumenicalstudent and youth organizations are unable to provide a challenging platform for the young people toreceive the appropriate training, knowledge, skills and network to improve themselves as qualifiedecumenical leaders.
It is in this light that the idea of the first School for Ecumenical Leadership Formation (SELF) Program wasjointly developed by WSCF-AP region and Christian Conference of Asia Youth desk in 2001. The SELF is aresponse to what was seen as a gap in the development of ecumenical leadership formation. It hopes to reexamine the causes of weakening and re-develop the scope of ecumenical leadership. As bi-annual leadershipdevelopment project, the SELF targets frontline leaders of the SCM such as staff and officers aged between22 to 35. SELF is an intensive 3-weeks program and an effective venue to train young ecumenist workingclosely with young people in the different parts of Asia and the Pacific.
The first SELF was organized in Chiangmai, Thailand in July, 2001 inviting 28 participants from the region,and the second SELF was implemented in 2003 participated in by 20 SCM leaders. The third SELF wasorganized in September, 2005, Bangalore, India with 18 participants and the fourth SELF was organized inSri Lanka in 2007 with 30 participants.
To date, we have trained 90 young leaders through the SELF Program, many of them are now activelyworking in their local churches, ecumenical institutions, NGOs and national movements and engaged invarious ministries and programs. WSCF is confident that through the SELF program, we were able tocontribute young leaders who are equipped with the necessary knowledge and principles in working withpeople of other faith and the vision of the ecumenical movement.
Generally, SELF seeks to enable participants to:
To develop a sense of community among the participants and provide space to learn and understandself and social milieu. The module also includes understanding the background of the SCM and WSCF asan ecumenical community of youth and students.
To understand and basis, principles of the Ecumenical Movement. challenge the prevalent practicesand ideology in the current ecumenical movement. It also hopes to provide theological base for the ecumenical agenda.
To have more critical understanding about the reality of the socio- political and economic setting ofthe world in the context of the Asian society. Participants are also expected to be aware of the differenttrends of movements in Asia.
This is an intensive study module to clarify the burning issues in Asia as well as world. The participantswill articulate their theological positions with regard to these issues. Through this module, the participantswill also have acquired a strong theoretical as well as theological base in ecumenical work.
To set guiding principles for promoting ecumenical leadership to the students and youth andexperiment the different forms of movement building and. To wrap up this extended training program byreflections on what the participants have learned and to suggest ways to moving forward in challenging theecumenical movement, be it local, regional and global.