World Student Christian Federation - Asia-Pacific Region (WSCF-AP)
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WSCF Asia-Pacific in 2005:
Evaluation and Reflections

 

Human Rights and Solidarity Programme

Action Week Against WTO

The outcome of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 6th Ministerial Conference that pushes the “free market” agenda forward brings the oppressed people of the world further down to poverty. It only shows how the big powers are desperate in protecting and promoting the profits of their giant agribusiness, industrial and service corporations.

The 10-day program has been an educating experience for all of the delegates. The WSCF AP has been a witnessed and part of the tireless collective action of the people who poured into the streets of Hong Kong and elsewhere to condemn the WTO. But the struggle continues after the ministerial meeting in Hong Kong. In fact, a much bigger struggle is waiting for all of us.

It is therefore a challenge for the WSCF AP to continue its solidarity to the oppressed people and sustain the federation’s human rights programs that encourage the SCM in the national level to take part in the struggle of the oppressed. Also, to provide a clear analysis on the current situation of the region and contribute in the formation of an effective alternative to globalization and WTO.

Leadership Formation Programme

School for Ecumenical Leadership Formation (SELF) 2005

One of the major lesson we learned from this SELF is the need to continuously evaluate the content and redesign the modules of the program. This will ensure that future SELF will address the specific needs of the national movements and the level of leadership skills of the participants. This evaluation came from the participants who felt that some of the topics and issues where too difficult to understand, while a few needed to be updated and contextualized.

Through the project, we also recognize the importance of providing alternative leadership programs where emphasis is given not just on the leadership skills, but on strengthening the formation of the theoretical and theological principles and framework essential in sustaining leadership. Often, young leaders such as those in the SCMs are faced with dilemma that challenges their ability to make sound decisions in line with the values and principles of the organization.

The challenge faced by the project is its long term continuity and being able to financially sustain itself as a regular activity of WSCF in the regional level. Our member movements and networks affirm the importance of conducting this project on a regular basis as it provides them with the necessary training ground and exposure to ensure the development of second-line of leadership in the national movements. Often, our members requests for more participants in the program or a re-echo of the similar program in the national level, but due to financial limitations, we a restrained to accept only one candidate to participate in the program and conduct this once in two years. The challenge for us now is how to conceptualize the development of the project that will maintain the core concept but reach out to more constituency with minimal funding requirement.

The General Secretaries/National Coordinators’ Meeting

The objectives were largely met. As there are many new general secretaries and national coordinators in this meeting, they found the discussions fruitful and helpful to their work in the SCMs. Particularly in the workshop on SCM Theology and Spirituality, it became apparent that SCM needs to connect its theological understanding and praxis with fluent articulation of these in order to engage not only with the students but also with the churches and other social or religious groups in active dialogues and exchanges so the vision and mission of the SCM are clearly articulated and demonstrated. The delegates took this opportunity to call for a resource kit to be developed by the WSCF that will help staff articulate the theologies that define the SCM Praxis.

The strength that demonstrated in this meeting was the learning and exchanging of ideas that flowed among the staff of the SCMs. This was an opportune time for them to understand the struggles of each movement, taking these experiences as learning and reference points to their own movment building. However, some of the difficulties were the lack of time for more in-depth discussions. In addition, there was not any time allocated to share national reports thus the delegates have to send extra time in their discussion groups to understand each one’s country and SCM situation before discussing on the essentials of the workshops. Hence, many staff hope there will be a time for national reporting in future staff meetings.

Ecumenical Partnerships

CCA - WSCF Joint Program Committee Meeting

Over-all the CWP has been a pivotal and important space both for WSCF AP and CCA in concretizing ecumenical partnership and cooperation. In this meeting, both organizations recognize the importance of ecumenical cooperation in the context of the growing fundamentalism and confessionalism in many churches and faith communities in Asia and the Pacific. This means that the ecumenical movement and its vision is marginalized and in some context, directly seen as a threat by these fundamentalist movements.

Although some commitments and recommendations in the 2003 CWP Consultation were not followed through, this was primarily attributed to the lack of clarity on the role of the CCA Youth Secretary on this program and transition period of the CCA Youth Secretary.

EASYNet

Asian Students and Youth Gathering (ASYG)

There were many positive notes on the programme such as the issues discussed were thought provoking with a good combination of faith reflection at the end of every session. These efforts enabled the participants to reflect on their faith in relation to concerns of social justice. The community spirit of the participants was strong even though they were from different students and youth movements, the strength of this spirit motivated an energetic partnership level in the national EASYNet.

The challenges posed to the ASYG were the huge age difference between some participants especially those came from the Christian Conference of Asia as most of them are not students but are the youth coordinators of the National Council of Churches in their own countries. Their experiences enabled the pr ivilege to exercise their language fluency thus dominating the discussions. It was also felt that the age differences have extensive impact on understanding the concerns of students and youth, hence, the necessity to identify and stipulate the age of participants was strongly recommended in the next gathering.

National EASYNets

There are several struggling national EASYNets at the moment due to reasons such as lack of staff from some member organisations to coordinate the EASYNet efforts, lack of presence of some member organisations in some countries example Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan etc., and the reluctance of some member organisations to work together because of different working methods.

The resolutions were for the regional member organisations to make internal discussions with their national movements on EASYNet matters whenever there are movement visits or the opportunity to meet up with the EASYNet coordinators. They were also encouraged to meet up with all EASYNet coordinators if they were to make a visit to a particular country that has an EASYNet. Member organisations came to an agreement that there would be no expectations for national EASYNets which are struggling with the obstacles mentioned above because these could only be resolved internally.

Overall Evaluation and Reflection of EASYNet

In the 2005 CT meeting, it was felt that one of the difficulties national EASYNets have in bringing forth the idea of ecumenical cooperation and the ecumenical spirit was the lack of understanding in the essentials of ecumenism. It was observed that many national EASYNets are obliged to work in partnership and are only following the directives from their regional organisations. Although there were successful programmes such as the ASYG and the Writing Workshops, acquired knowledge and ecumenical perspectives seldom trickled down to other students and youths due to reasons of continuation, other school commitments, lack of national EASYNet coordination etc.

One of the resolutions was the publication of a Primer on Ecumenism. This Primer provides an understanding of ecumenism, the essence of ecumenical partnerships and will be student and youth friendly in terms of wording and the methodology of conveying the ecumenical message. Apart from the Primer, there were serious reflections of putting more efforts in national EASYNet programmes and one of the suggestions was to organise ecumenical training workshops at the national level. These efforts will materialise in 2006 where 3 workshops at the national level are likely to be held and they aim to address the lack of clear understanding and perspectives on ecumenical partnerships as well as making them reach out to more students and youth at the national level so as to build up the foundation of ecumenical understanding.

Although the journey of EASYNet has been filled with obstacles, it is a journey that should not be given up. The importance of ecumenism and the ecumenical spirit needs to be continuously inculcated to the students and youth as there will always be an ongoing flow of students and youth who have not been exposed to the essentials of ecumenism. For those who have the exposure, it is always a need to motivate them to higher levels of understanding because the meaning of ecumenism could be extensive and not confined to present definitions posed by the ecumenical movement, because the ultimate aim is for all creation of God to live in abundance and with dignity.

Regional Women’s Programme

Women’s Internship Programme

The objectives of this programme have been largely met. The evaluation from the 2 interns was positive with the feedback that the internship programme gave them new insights to women’s issues concerning labour, migration, and women working in entertainment industries. The internship saw the interns given tasks that match their strengths. For instance, Hee Won was tasked to work on a research project that involves critical analysis and the critque of current social policies while Sayun was tasked to organise small discussion groups amongst the women.

This experience also prompted an honest reflection of their commitment to women’s empowerment and social justice which is no longer an empty talk but the realisation of the urgent need to do concrete work. Sayun felt that this experience gave her a good grounding of social realities as she begins her final training in ministry work, while Hee Won will transfer her skills to the women’s group that she will be working with after the internship programme. In addition, the cultural differences in terms of working styles and perceptions were a challenge that helped widened their horizons in working with differences, and appreciate diversity and cultural pluralism. The 2 interns expressed that the internship programme has helped them

in their self-developmental process and strongly encouraged the RWP to continue with this programme. From the interns’ evaluation, some improvements could be made on giving more information on the living arrangements as they were not aware of these until they reached Philippines. The uncertainty and apprehension had caused unnecessary worry on the accmmodation. Also, there need to be more information on the political and social situations of the hosting country prior to their trip so that they could be prepared for any unexpected emergencies.

Overall, the women’s internship programme has brought Hee Won and Sayun to a new level of knowledge and conscientization in the realities of women’s concerns and issues, as well as motivated them to contribute their skills and knowledge to their own societies.

RWP - SCM Joint Women’s Programme

Given that this is an entirely new programming approach, it takes some time for the National Movements to take the initiative to request for the Joint Women’s Programme. However, the four SCMs which have co-organised the programmes gave positive feedback to this approach and would even like to have a similar co-organised programme in 2006. Hence, it will be a gradual process where the National Movements will take the eventual lead in the RWP-SCM Joint Women’s Programme.

From the evaluation of the 4 RWP-SCM Joint Women’s Programmes, the aims listed above were largely met. All 4 SCMs took up themes and topics that were in their own contexts and Working Groups consisting of women SCMers were formed to coordinate the programmes. Bangladesh SCM strategically invited most of the local units’ women officers as well as some of the Central Committee members to participate in the programme, thus not only giving to the officers and members experience in the programme thrust and direction of WSCF AP, but also motivating them to prioritise women’s concerns and programmes in the local as well as national levels. Myanmar SCM invited a young senior friend who was a former participant of a regional women’s programme, as the programme’s resource person. It was motivating for this young senior friend as she was able to connect and share her skills and experience to the next generation of SCMers. In Taiwan SCM, although there were few participants, they were extremely committed to form a Working Group to work on the next workshop in 2006. The participants in the Cambodia SCM programme called for regular women’s programmes to further their knowledge and the Executive Committee is planning to appoint a women officer to work with some students on their request.

WSCF Inter-Regional Women’s Programme

This initiative prompted a lot of inter-regional cooperation, understanding and solidarity from the preparatory process to the actual programme itself. In the programme itself, there was a high level of active participation, bonding, sharing of personal stories and knowledge as well as mutual exchanges. This programme helped to set the pace for the next WSCF Inter-Regional Programme which hopefully will glean from the experiences of this programme in order to provide challenging directions for the students in the Federation.

Praxis

Praxis has always been and still is a newsletter that provides a space for critical analysis, theological reflection and solidarity action for, with and of the students in WSCF AP. There are challenges of Praxis being too student-unfriendly if it contains an excessive intellectual analysis and not enough personal reflection and experience, or that Praxis becomes too light weighted because of insufficient critical intellectualism. Although there has always been a wrestle between the two balances, throughout the years of publication, Praxis has maintained its balance gracefully. This publication has been read widely by students not only in the Asia-Pacific region, in other regions of WSCF and also in other students groups as well. Praxis offers both critical analysis and information of pertinent social issues as well as the theological reflection that defines the social action of the SCM, in many ways, Praxis remains a name aptly of the vision and mission of the SCM which are put in words.