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Sound the Bamboo
[CCA Hymnal]


Promoting Ecological Justice: Asian Churches’ Response
Consultation on Ecology, Economy and Accountability
31th October-5th November 2012
North Sumatra-Indonesia
Organized by Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service,
Christian Conference of Asia (JID-CCA)
in cooperation with
Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI)


Participants, hosts and resource people

Christian Conference of Asia by discerning the signs and needs of the times has organized a consultation on "Ecology, Economy and Accountability: Asian Churches’ Response" in Pusat Pembinaan Umat (PPU), Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra, Indonesia from 1-4 November 2012. Around 50 members representing different parts of Asia like Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka participated in this consultation. 

The Asian Region is the world's most vulnerable region that is prone to environmental threats and disasters, which can be linked, directly or indirectly to ecological imbalances and climate change. There are strong indications that extreme natural disasters such as Tsunamis, earthquakes, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, snow avalanches, thunderstorms, intense rainfall, heat waves, prolonged dry spells, and severe dust storms are likely to be more frequent and intense in these areas. The well- known green-house effect gives rise to rapid increase in temperatures in the arid areas, rising rainfall concentration, variations in rainfall, increase in global sea level, significant variability associated with the El Nino events and many more. The victims of these crises are the poor, the marginalized and the underprivileged in the Asian region.

It would also be right to mention that in the Asian context, this crisis exposes the integral connection between economic imperialism and ecological imperialism, where the developed countries impose on the vulnerability and poverty of societies and communities in developing countries, as they look for cheap labor, and lacks environmental protection laws. These challenges are the present permanent features of the Asian region; however, this could be significantly altered if we all share our common responsibility to be good stewards of this creation that has been entrusted to us. It is high time to realize that the whole humanity is accountable for the well-being of this earth and the Universe.

Action Plan
Taking these issues into consideration it has been proposed to engage with some action plans through co-ordination and net-working among member churches, ecumenical bodies, interfaith organizations, NGOs and experts in the field, the Asian Church has to:
  • Create awareness among the local congregations the peril of the ecological crisis.
  •  Initiation should be taken to adopt the ecological concerns in the life and ministry of the Church.
  •  Due to the increase of environmental catastrophes there is a need to emphasize "Green Church."
  • It is imperative to initiate "Eco-Reformation" in all the aspects of the Church and Society.Eco-Reformation would foster social praxis concerned with reducing consumption and adopting habits of sustainability and accountability.
  • Human-made destructive innovations that collapse human community and sustainability such as Nuclear Power Plants, Mining, Construction of Mega Dams, Deforestation and displacement of the Indigenous communities by the corporate ownership should be stopped.
  • Say No! to the Global Investors who fund the multi-national companies to dominate the Asian economy.
  • Strategies should be devised to revive the local resources in order to encourage self-reliance.
  • Solidarity should be manifested by and among the Asian churches to address and engage in this pertinent issue.
  • CCA should take initiative in networking and monitoring between the member churches, social movements, NGOs, interfaith organizations, ecumenical bodies and so on.
  • Christian commitment towards establishing "Eco-Justice" in preserving God's entire Creation should be emphasized.
(Reported from Pematangsiantar, North Sumatra, Indonesia,
by Hisashi Yukimoto, Japan)

 Rev. Irvan Hutasoit ordained minister sharing struggles of the
 indigenous peoples from Pandumaan and Sipituhuta villages

Church elder from Haranggaol Church welcoming
participants  before visiting Lake Toba 

posted by communications on Thursday, November 08, 2012  

‘Human Rights, Protection Mechanisms and Ecumenical Advocacy.’
20-25 October 2012

Human rights is never partial
It is not possible that people demand their individual human rights while neglecting or abusing the human rights of other people or other groups of people.  “If the human rights of an individual is violated, it is a violation not only of the human rights of that individual but of the whole community where he or she belongs to,” said Mr. Basil Fernando, an  expert on human rights in Asia and a former director of Asia Human Rights Commission.  This understanding is rooted in the concept of the image of God in each person in the context of communal life, which is also ingrained in Asian culture.

This understanding has inspired the thirty participants representing churches from Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Korea, who attended the Training on ‘Human Rights, Protection Mechanisms and Ecumenical Advocacy.’ This program that was held from 20-25 October 2012 in Bangkok Christian Guest House was organized by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches and the program unit of Justice, International Affairs and Development and Service (JID) of the Christian Conference of Asia. (Please read full report on CCA News and Updates)

posted by communications on Thursday, November 08, 2012  

24 August 2012

'Listening to the Groaning of Creation' is one of the topics that is being deliberated on in the 'Asian Church Leaders Theological Consultation' that is being held now at the Presbyterian Bible College, Hsinchu City, Taiwan. We would like to share with you a poem on Global Warming, by Amita Thomas, a 13 year old girl from India.

A Poem on Global Warming

Only when...

Only when the last tree has died
When the last river has dried
When earth turns poisonous and deadly
We will realize we can’t eat money

Only when the last breath of oxygen has been consumed
When the last flower died before it bloomed
When the mighty atmospheres begins to tear
We will realize we can’t live elsewhere

Only when the last rain turns acid
When the last human is bedrid
When every drop of water turns impure
We will realize not everything has a cure

Only when the last fish suffocates
When the last animal body decays
When the last remains of these species is a mere bone
We will realize we can’t live on our own

Only when the last piece of history is destroyed
When the last truth of our existence is ruined
When there no longer exists a word called “smile”
We will realize we’d been wrong all the while 

Amita Thomas
13 years

posted by communications on Friday, August 24, 2012  

Human Rights of Migrant Workers in the Gulf
2 May 2012, Alwaye, India

An international consultation on Ecumenical Advocacy for the Protection of the Human Rights of Migrant Workers in the Arabian Gulf Region was held at Santhigiri Ashram, Alwaye, India from 28 April to 3 May 2012. The event was organized jointly by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia. The Consultation was an initiative of the CCIA as mandated through a working group’s study process to work towards an ecumenical response for the protection of the rights of Migrant Workers in the Arabian Gulf region. The Consultation was attended by thirty participants, representatives of Churches and migrant-serving institutions and organizations from sending and receiving countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, including ecumenical organizations and specialized ministries together with representatives of migrant workers from the Arabian Gulf countries.

The Consultation provided a platform to discuss the problems and concerns related to the rights of migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf countries. In their deliberations, participants in the consultation reflected on the role of churches in addressing concerns regarding the rights of migrant workers, how best to raise awareness about their working and living conditions and that of their families in the Arabian Gulf states, and how to find collaborative ecumenical approaches among churches in labour-sending and labour-receiving countries, so as to stand in solidarity with migrant workers facing exploitation and violations of their human dignity and rights.

Migration is a growing global phenomenon: the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that there are some 80 million people around the globe who live and work as migrant workers. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has estimated that in 2010 there were about 105.4 million economically active migrants (including refugees) across the world, representing 44 per cent of the total migrant population. The discovery of oil in the 1950s and the more recent colossal infrastructure development in the Arabian Gulf have been accompanied by a rapid influx of labourers to this region, mainly from South and South-East Asia, Africa and neighbouring Arab countries. These migrant workers have brought necessary foreign technologies, knowledge and skills to the region and in effect have become the primary labour force together with unskilled, domestic and irregular workers.  However, while the sending and labour-receiving countries in the Arabian Gulf benefit from migrant labour, their exploitation and abuse remain a reality.

Migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf countries often face gross violations of their rights, exploitation and at times violence leading even to death. The most vulnerable are the female domestic workers and unskilled and irregular labourers, being subjected to long working hours without rest, deplorable and inhuman working and living conditions, irregular pay, confiscation of travel documents and victimization by unscrupulous agents and employers. Many of them also undergo physical and sexual abuse, and even rape. This is compounded by their lack of knowledge of the local language and migration procedures as well as ignorance of their basic labour rights. At times, on their arrival at a worksite unskilled migrant workers are compelled to sign new contracts in a language alien to them with changes made to suit the employer; sometimes specific clauses are included under which the worker is denied basic human rights. They often face discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are forced to live in labour camps in deplorable and inhuman conditions. The “kafeel” system, which ties a migrant worker to an individual employer who serves as his/her immigration sponsor, has been compared to modern-day slavery and perpetuates the exploitation of migrant workers, often treating them as commodities, and many become victims of human trafficking.  Migrant workers who leave their homes in the hope of improving their life situations often return disappointed and defeated, and in some instances end their lives.

However, against the backdrop of these dismal and appalling circumstances, progressive action on the part of various human rights organizations, intervention by the UN and advocacy on the part of other nations has led to the promulgation of employee-friendly laws in several Gulf countries.  Though slow in implementation, these new laws are a ray of hope. The several safeguards brought about by these laws provide protection for temporary migrant workers against contract fraud, illegal recruitment fees, passport confiscation and restriction of movement. In addition, the new laws, if implemented and enforced, will ensure timely payment of monthly remuneration, work-hour limits, health care and safety regulations as well as new administrative procedures for the equitable treatment of contract workers.

Despite the fact that the international human rights instruments and mechanisms, especially the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW), was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1990 as a means of providing international protection for the rights of migrant workers and their families, most countries are yet to ratify this convention. This shows that most UN member states have yet to value the significance of the convention which sets out the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed to all migrant workers. The 2011 ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C189) is considered a milestone in this area.

Our commitment to uphold the dignity of human life is based on our biblical and theological foundations, and is reiterated and called forth in Holy Scriptures through the voices of the prophets, the ministry of Christ and in the letters of the apostles. In the Old and New Testaments, we are introduced to a central truth that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God - Imago Dei (Gen. 1:26–27; 5:1–3; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9). Imago Dei names the personal and relational nature of human existence, and God calls us to act justly towards and on behalf of those whose Imago Dei is being threatened: their human dignity and rights are violated through exploitation.

God calls us to stand in solidarity with these afflicted migrant workers and to be engaged in a mission of prophetic witness to uphold the rights and dignity of migrant workers.  The prophetic call reminds us, “I am the Lord, and I have called you to be just and good. I will hold you by the hand and watch over you. And I will give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to all nations. You will open blind eyes. You will bring people out of prison, out of the prison where they live in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:6-7).

The consultation, whilst acknowledging and deeply appreciating the support and pastoral care afforded by the churches both in the sending and receiving countries, makes further recommendations for ecumenical joint actions for strengthening global advocacy for the protection of the Human Rights of Migrant Workers in the Arabian Gulf Region.

We invite the support of all churches and the ecumenical movement:
  • to advocate for the ratification of the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW), and ILO C189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers;
  • to lobby through contacts with National Human Rights Commissions;
  • to form advocacy partnerships with international human rights organizations, legal support mechanisms, NGOs, faith-based communities, trade unions and local civil society organizations;
  • to lobby and advocate for the cancelation of the Kafeel system in Arabian Gulf countries; 
  • to form partnerships with the wider ecumenical community in their respective countries;
  • to work with local civil society and faith-based organizations;
  • to provide pre-departure training, including vocational, language and legal rights awareness, for migrant workers;
  • to provide legal counsel and educate  workers about their rights before they depart for the destination country.
  • We also invite all member churches to raise awareness among the expatriate congregations in the Gulf countries about the needs of migrant workers; and to provide training for church leaders in sending and receiving countries.
Janejinda Pawadee

posted by communications on Friday, July 27, 2012  

In Focus
Dignity of Human Beings:  Safeguarding Life
Interfaith Workshop on Small Arms and Trade 
An Interfaith workshop on Small Arms and Trade brought together more than 32 participants from 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region including Sweden, the USA and Canada to address the violence caused by the proliferation of small arms. The Workshop held at the Bangkok Christian Guesthouse from 26-27 March 2012, aimed at promoting collaboration and exchange of experiences between and among representatives from faith communities and faith-based organizations from the Asia-Pacific region as well as to explore the regional relevance of issues related to military expenditure and development, armed violence, human security, and ongoing initiatives for increased arms control such as the Arms Trade Treaty.

Pieter-Jan van Eggermont, the Program Officer of the Human Security and Disarmament Program of the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFOR), one of the organizers of the Gothenburg Process Workshop in Bangkok, presented the history of the Gothenburg Process since its initiation in 2001, a joint ecumenical undertaking by the three Swedish ecumenical institutions—the Christian Council of Sweden, the Swedish Mission Council and the SweFOR (and later the Life and Peace Institute)—to highlight the “growing transfers of military equipment, primarily to the South and to see that an inclusive dialogue with all the actors involved are developed and maintained.

Case studies of faith-based advocacy initiatives undertaken in India and the Philippines in support of the Arms Trade Treaty were also presented in the Workshop. Resource persons, revisited their faith traditions from Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism.  There was also a commitment shared to undertake activities within the resources and capacities of each group, such as prayers, vigils, engaging the media, awareness-raising seminars, and signature campaigns.  A final recommendation was the setting up of an email group to continue networking among the participants.

In his welcome address, Carlos Ocampo, from the Christian Conference of Asia, reflected on the Chiang Mai consultation that took place in May 2008 and reiterated the commitment made by the participants to disseminate information on the negative impact of increasing arms trade in Asia and to support civil society organizations and governments promoting a legally binding and effective Arms Trade Treaty.  Asian churches, he said, are also being enjoined by the World Council of Churches to participate in the Arms Trade Treaty Campaign which will culminate in July 2012.

From 2004, the Gothenburg process, has been engaging churches, civil society groups, peace organizations, governments, the United Nations as well as manufacturers of small weapons in a dialogue to influence future developments in the arms industry and to continue bringing to people’s consciousness the sacredness of the life and dignity of human beings and the need to safeguard life and human security.     

Carlos OCampo

posted by communications on Friday, July 27, 2012  

In search of life giving economies:
Is Capitalism institutionalized greed?
AGAPE Reference Group
7-10 March 2012

The AGAPE Reference Group working on the links among poverty, wealth and ecology met in Quito, Ecuador from 7-10 March 2012, hosted by the Latin American Council of Churches. The AGAPE reference group comprising seventeen church representatives from Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America, reflected on the biblical mandate on greed and power relations, heard regional reports from regional ecumenical councils represented in the Reference Group, participated in liturgy, and started planning for the AGAPE Global Forum on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology, to be held in Nanjing, China on June 18-22, 2012, as a culmination of the 7-year process that started at the Porto Alegre WCC Assembly in 2005.

A major focus of the meeting was a report from the Working Group on the Greed Line, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser, former General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.  The report from the Greed Line Working Group defined greed as “an expression of human desire to have more than one’s fair and legitimate share of material goods or power”.  It went further, defining what is fair and legitimate as providing the community a sustainable life, living in dignity based on social, cultural and moral norms.  It further stated that competitive quest for power represents greed when maximizing profit becomes an end in itself.  

WCC’s Poverty, Wealth and Ecology Project continues to deepen the AGAPE process by analyzing and establishing links between poverty, wealth and ecology, linking economy and ecology; advocating for a new international financial architecture; developing wealth or greed lines in counterpart to poverty lines as a guidance for churches and Christians; advancing the concept of ecological debt among churches and the wider ecumenical circle; and strengthening the understanding of the intrinsic connection between economic justice and peace.

Regional consultations on poverty, wealth and ecology were also held in Dares Salaam in 2007 (Africa), Guatemala in 2008 (Latin America), Chiang Mai in 2009 (Asia and Pacific), Budapest in 2012 (Eastern Europe), and Calgary in 2011 (North America). Complementing and supplementing the regional consultations, study groups on finance and ecological debt helped to shape two ground-breaking statements issued by WCC Central Committee in 2009 on “just finance and an economy of life” as well as on “eco-justice and ecological debt”.

The AGAPE Global Forum in Nanjing will harvest the richness of church viewpoints, experiences, practices and lessons learned from the 7-year process including the 5 regional church consultations, the study groups focusing on international finance, structural greed and ecological debt.  A call to action with joint strategies and actions by churches towards building just, caring and sustainable alternatives will be presented and serve as an important contribution to the 2013 WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

A proposal from the WCC was made for a 7-year campaign on economic and ecological justice, marking a continuation of the issues on justice and peace raised at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica in May 2011.  The eco-justice ecumenical campaign will encourage and harness actions by churches and ecumenical partners to promote justice for the poorest of the poor and for the earth through theological reflections in congregations and seminaries, case studies, interfaith dialogues, awareness-building campaigns, community-based sustainable economy projects eradicating poverty, spiritual and liturgical resources, and advocacy at various levels for the transformation of financial institutions and UN related agencies.

Dr. Rogate Reuben Mshana, Ms. Athena Peralta, and Ms. Sophie Dhanjal from the World Council of Churches organized the reference group meeting, while the Rev. Franklin Canelos, the Rev. Nilton Giese of the Consejo Latino Americano de las Iglesias (CLAI) hosted the Meeting. CCA’s Carlos Ocampo, Executive Secretary for Justice, International Affairs, Development and Service represented Asia in the Meeting.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

 Carlos Ocampo

posted by communications on Friday, July 27, 2012  

Ecumenical Initiatives in Peace and Security: North East concerns
The North East Asia Church Leaders forum, comprising church leaders from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, met at the Christian Guesthouse in Bangkok from 2-3 March, 2012, to discuss the current situation facing the churches in northeast Asia and plan follow up of on-going programs to continue accompanying the churches in responding to their particular situations. Issues on the situation in each country of the North Eastern region highlighting peace and (human) security agenda were identified and discussed.  Hopeful signs of future political changes were also welcomed and discussed. 

The leaders called for continuing the campaign against the construction of the Naval Base in Jeju Island, Korea, as the construction becomes more certain; arrests and detention of protestors carry on, and the release of a few leaders seen as just a symbolic gesture. A collection of all statements issued on the construction of the naval base, including the statement of the CCA international delegation, titled ‘Dossier of Articles – Peace in Asia’, was published by NCC Korea.   

An important decision, among others that were taken at that meeting, was for The Korean Ecumenical Forum and the Northeast Asia Church Forum to continue to play a role in strengthening international support and solidarity for the Korean reunification in the peninsula.

A progress report on JEDRO a program responding to the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan was presented. The Rev. Kim Young-ju and Rev. Po Kam Cheong were voted to represent NEA Forum in the next JEDRO meeting in Japan.

On the anvil are plans for a consultation among churches in time for the WCC Assembly to be held in Busan to help contextualize the Assembly in Asia and to enable the Asian churches to ‘own’ the Assembly process; and for holding the fourth ‘Article 9’ conference in Manila as NCC Philippines had offered to host it. They also discussed ways and means of ecumenical co-operation and co-ordination in Asia through the CCA.

Church leaders present at the meeting were Rev. Hu, Hong-chi (Presbyterian Church in Taiwan), Rev. Po Kam Cheong (Hong Kong Christian Council), Rev. Shin Seung Min (Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, PROK), Rev. Kim Young-Ju (NCC Korea), Rev. Hiroko Ueda (NCC Japan), with Rev. Grace Moon,  Ms. Janejinda Pawadee, and Mr. Carlos Ocampo from the CCA staff.  The Hong Kong Christian Council will host the next meeting of the Forum from 21-23 February, 2013 in Hong Kong.

Carlos Ocampo

posted by communications on Friday, July 27, 2012  

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