The Consultation on ‘Ecumenical Diakonia, Church’s Response to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia’ was organized by the CCA and WCC from 24–26 October 2022 at the CCA headquarters in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Rev. Andrew Devadason represented the bishop and the diocese of Colombo at this consultation.
The consultation brought together about 30 invitees from WCC’s and CCA’s member churches, councils, and networks. The consultation was structured into bible studies, panel presentations and reflections, plenary discussions, and workshops. The objective was to provide the space for constructive dialogue on the importance of sustainable development for church and individual to build ecumenical solidarity in addressing pertinent issues, and to demonstrate the role of the church in achieving the goals for the fullness of life in this Oikos.
Rev. Andrew shared greetings on behalf of the bishop and the diocese. He was invited to conduct the bible study on the final day. His study revolving around the Sri Lankan context under the theme “Discerning the Mind of Christ; The Missed 12th Apostle” based on St. John 20:11-18 and Acts 1:21-26, stirred up the minds of the participants and was well received. Rev. Andrew enhanced the inputs of the consultation with his previous experience in the WCC diakonia consultations on “Prophetic Diakonia” in 2010 and on “Transformational Diakonia” in 2012. He flagged the need for advocacy being part of ‘Diakonia” ministry and emphasized the need of inter-faith initiatives in the Asian context.
Representatives of the church and ecumenical organizations who attended the three-day Asia Regional Consultation proposed the need for effective coordination of Asian churches’ ongoing Diaconal mission and strengthening of mutual support and solidarity among Asian churches.
The participants suggested that the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) organize national and regional capacity-building training programs for churches and ecumenical organizations in Asia on a regular basis.
The consultation also proposed an ecumenical network of Diaconal missions across Asia and a platform for sharing information and emerging concerns among the Asian churches as well as generating local resources. The participants also proposed that a platform be set up for the exchange of learning which could be replicated at national levels and pointed out that concerted efforts could help enhance churches’ participation in achieving the SDGs.
Several participants shared perspectives on the issue of mismanagement of church properties, which causes the shrinking of resources over time.
Recalling the sharing of experiences and achievements of the Diaconal mission of several Asian churches during the consultation, the CCA General Secretary, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, reminded the participants that Asian churches have experiences in following best practices of their successful engagement in Diakonia from the grassroots to national levels, and even in their Diaconal engagement at the international levels as those were shared by some Asian churches. These examples are clear evidence of the potential, capacity, and commitment of Asian churches to mobilize resources within each country in Asia. As this positive sign of increasing commitment to self-reliance and sustainability is encouraging, we need to find ways of strengthening the Asian ecumenical mission of Diakonia; at the same time, we should be mindful of sharing resources with better stewardship, accountability, and transparency as well as good governance in implementing projects and programs.
There is a strong call for churches to practice strict accountability, particularly regarding the proper management of financial and property resources, and to find innovative ways to move toward self-sustainability and self-reliance in their pursuit of diaconal ministry programs.
Asian church representatives who attended the consultation strongly affirmed the view that revisiting the church’s teachings on stewardship, charity, and resource development will serve as the foundation for this work of accountability and transparency.
Participants, on the other hand, proposed that identifying human resources and enhancing their capacities in local churches and ecumenical organizations would help scale up Diaconal ministry work in various Asian churches.
Participants strongly recommended mapping human resources and mobilizing local churches as Diaconal ministry prime movers. It was also stated that collaboration and cooperation would maximize resources and close gaps among churches and local ecumenical organizations best suited to carry out programs such as disaster risk reduction and psychosocial support in disaster and conflict-affected communities in Asia.
Finally, the participants suggested to the CCA to keep the focus of Asia Sunday in future on the Diaconal ministry of churches and ecumenical organizations throughout the region.
Rev. Matthew Ross of the World Council of Churches affirmed the commitment of the WCC to enhancing the capacities of churches in ecumenical Diakonia.
“Let us work together for the glory of God and the betterment of people everywhere,” Rev. Matthew Ross of the WCC said at the end of the three-day consultation (parts of this report is adopted from the CCA report)