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WSCF General Assembly Reflections

WSCF General Assembly Reflections
Poon Wan Yu (second from left) joins fellow SCMers from
other countries in the recent WSCF General Assembly.

by Poon Wan Yu, SCM Hong Kong

2008. August Day 1

I wish no one remembers what I have done in this morning! This morning a statement was read on the state before the very first session started. I was so sleepy at that time because of the tight schedule and jet lag, what can I understand from the statement on “sexual orientation” and “homesexual”. I thought it is a statement supporting the sexual minority, so I stood up to show my agreement after the reading of the statement finished. There are no more rooms for further understanding nor discussion about the statement. For instance, why the statement which is not planned in the schedule was read in the GA?

The program started as usual, but my friend sat next to me asked if I agree to open the platform for discussion about the issue of homosexual. I replied that, “ Of course I don’t oppose to have a discussion about that. But do we have space for that?” I simply think that the schedule of GA was really tight and I don expect to discuss about the issue of sexual orientation in specific. Because SCM-HK is concerned of the issue of sexual minority and I supposed that everyone in the Federation is willing to dialogue with them, even if they don’t agree with them totally.

“Actually, what is the statement about?” I felt like something strange happened. My friend said that, the discussion about homosexual in the pre-Men meeting and the stoles from the priest of sexual minority in the prayer room have triggered the worry of some delegates. The statement claimed that the issue of sexual orientation should not be discussed in the GA officially. After hearing that, I thought of nothing but hoping that no one has seen me standing up!! My action, though which is not according to my will, has offended the sexual minority who attended in the meeting. Of course, the most important is not my personal acceptance, but whether we respect their feeling and right to speak out or not, even we don agree with them. I did feel guilty even if no one was aware of my standing. I can only admit silently when my friend said I m quite irresponsible, even he can understand my sleepiness in the early morning.

2008. August Day 2

The discussion about the sexual orientation is still going on. Today, there was a session to listen to the reports from the GA Commissions. All the delegates were divided into 4 groups to discuss the direction for the next quadrennial in the past 3 days. For collecting the opinion from members of the other Commissions, the reports of commissions were displayed on the wall for participants to write down their opinion. On the report of Leadership Formation Commissions which recommended the working theme for the Federation, there are plentiful opinions around the theme of “ sexuality”. It seems that the delegates were divided into 2 sides, for or against the sexual minority. However, we did not have a chance to discuss face to face, to interact with the others directly on this issue. We have traveled such a long way to join this meeting that happens only in 4 years. The GA should be a platform for people from different countries to share their experience and context in order to clarify and recognize the plight and challenge of the Federation as a Global organization, so we can draw out the direction for the next 4 years. On the issue of Sexual Orientation, we were divided instead of getting better understanding about the different opinions. It is pity that this kind of mutual understanding did not occur in the GA publicly.

Actually, when I talked about this issue with one of those who oppose to discuss about the issue, I came to know their limitation in their country. Personally, he accepts everyone, even if he does not agree with them. However, their linkage with the local churches will be threatened if the Federation support the Sexual Minority and pronounce it in the official documents. After all the most urgent concern in his country is not sex/sexuality but warfare. He personally does not want the mission of his local movement to be disturbed by this issue. Of course it is not the reason strong enough to prohibit the Federation’s support for the sexual minority. As in my context of HK, the sexual minority suffer not only humiliation but violation of basic rights. For example, people can reject to rent the apartment or offer the employment, simply because of their sexual orientation. Actually, the basic right of civics has been violated in the excuse of sex/sexuality.

In September last year, the editors of my University student press were sued because they published the article about different sexual orientations. And the police even can monitor the private activities of citizens in the name of stopping the pervasion of obscene and pornographic material and speeches. The taboo of sex/sexuality has been used as an excuse to violate the right of speech and endanger the development of civil society. In the conversation with my friend, I understand that his determination is not out of hostility towards the sexual minority, but the limitation in his context. He also realized that why do certain countries, like HK, prioritize the issue. Violence is not only present in war but everywhere of our daily life. The suffering of sexual minority in HK reflects the unjust structure where some people are not respected and marginalized, simply because they do not have the same opinion as the majority.

It would be a good chance for people with different opinions and beliefs to understand, and even reconcile with each other, if we can open the room for dialogue in GA. However, we did not have this room due to the tight schedule. It reminded me that the first time I organized a camp for the incoming EXCO of SCM Hong Kong, I was criticized for the tight schedule too. Finally we skipped half of the program and reserved time for the discussion self-initiated by the participants. I realized that we are always repeating the top-down power structure unconsciously when we criticize it. Well planning does not mean the everything-control by the organizers. Time and space must be reserved for the participants’ concern. It would facilitate the dialogue among delegates, for example, if there are AOB (any other business) sessions for any ad hoc issues.

2008. August Day 3

Finally it is the last day of the GA and its time to say good bye to friends. It is the first time I participate in this kind of “highest decision making body”. Actually, I have no idea what was I going to do until I really took part in it. During the meeting, I was disturbed by lots of confusion. Even I have attended to the RCM (Regional Committee Meeting of WSCF AP region) before GA, it is still a great challenge for me.

First of all, I could not really understand what the other delegates were saying due to different language accents. In the debate of candidates for the incoming officers of the Federation, Suhye’s, the delegate from Korea SCM sharing hit me the most. We also used English in the RCM, as well as other AP programs, but it is the first time I feel so stressed by language in GA. Because in the RCM, most people tried to speak considerately slow. Also, the handouts have been prepared, even the keynote speech. I heard comments from the other delegates that the participants from AP were rather reserved and not willing to express themselves. However, it is really difficult for me to listen to something unfamiliar without any notes and then respond immediately. There are always the structural reasons behind the personal problem!

However, the greatest obstacle of my participation was not the language barriers. Although the introduction documents were sent in advance and the handbook of the GA was given, it took time for me to figure out what is a General Assembly. As a first time delegate to join the Assembly, I had totally no idea what was my role and what was the function and procedure of the different sessions in the GA.

For instance, one of the resolutions passed in the GA was accepting Arabic as a working language of the Federation, as the whole region of Middle East share the same native language, Arabic. Someone argued that it is the responsibility of the region to translate the information from English to Arabic for the local member. Whether the Arabic language is entitled to be a working language of the Federation, it is not only the problem of respect and recognition of the needs of the movements, but a technical problem. As a delegate from AP region who has difficulties with the language, I agree that the Federation have not paid enough consideration and awareness to different languages. However, the session of “Resolution” is not the time for the revision of language policy in the Federation. The revision of the WSCF Constitution or Charter should be proposed 6 months in advance, so that the technical and resources problem could be studied and the GA delegates, as well as their local movement, can obtain a comprehensive understanding about the pros and cons of the proposition. No one pointed out this procedure problem at that time. I could only think of this afterwards.

WSCF General Assembly Reflections
AP SCM Delegates Leading Worship

Finally, the “Resolution” about Arabic as working language was passed along with the other resolutions, though some of us were not convinced yet. Although I agree that the Federation should show consideration to different languages by translation and other technical support, the procedure of the discussion this time still worried me. What is the procedure to revise and suggest the policy of the Federation? Besides Arabic, there so many languages that needs the support of the Federation, what is the criterion of being a working language? If WSCF start its work in China, can Chinese be the working language as there huge population in China? The discussion about language has challenged us, does the SCMs and the Federation really believe in open dialogue and make it into praxis?

I do believe everyone can attribute to make the GA better and more efficient next time. No matter you have attended in the GA or not, all of us are essential to make the local movement and the Federation move forward.