The CWM South Asia region held its 2020 Regional Pre-Assembly on the theme Rising to Life with Jesus on 24 – 28 February 2020 in Kolkata, India, hosted by the Church of North India. The CWM 2020 Regional Pre-Assembly was a regional meeting attended by CWM member churches from the South Asia Region aiming to fulfil the following objectives:
- Bible studies, worship and reflection
- Discern the will of God for such a time as this
- Contextualise the Assembly theme of Rising to Life with Jesus
- Thematic expression on Life-Flourishing Communities
- Provide an orientation to the CWM 2020 Assembly
An integral part of the Pre-Assembly were the Assembly Orientation sessions led by the CWM East and South Asia staff team. An introduction of CWM was given, followed by a presentation on the Assembly and the role of delegates. The delegates were briefed on key concepts and processes of the Assembly, as well as governance and the role of members. Finally, logistical matters were covered.
The Keynote Address based on the Assembly theme, Rising to Life with Jesus, was delivered by Rev. Dr Praveen Prabhu Sudheer Perumalla, the Church of South India-Ecumenical Mission in Solidarity (CSI-EMS) liaison officer of CSI. Expounding on the topic of Public Intellectuals and Mutual Indifference, Rev. Dr Perumalla highlighted the impact of public intellectuals in transforming society through their critical questioning. Examples were drawn from India and Nepal, illustrating the dichotomy between public intellectuals and the surrounding environment of “mutual indifference”, defined as “a deadwood response towards fellow humans in times of trouble”. The Babylonian captivity of the Israelites was being presented as a biblical example of a response against such moral indifference.
Rev. Samuel John Shekhar, Chaplain in St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, led the two-day bible study on Reconciled Diversity and Justice. On the first day, Rev. Shekhar brought the delegates through an exposition of the neonate Christian community, sharing of how the apostles of Christ handled the issue of discrimination between the Jewish and Hellenistic widows in their community. In the South Asian context, delegates examined the cultural practices that hinder the flourishing of communities, as well as the political realities that obstruct the emergence of these. The bible study on the second day was on the topic of Stability and Harmony. Based on the text of Jeremiah 29:4-11, Rev. Shekar drew five basic principles – a stable economy for self-reliance, a stable family for social security, real local involvement for social harmony, collective resilience and the power of hope.
The first thematic expression on Life-Flourishing Societies: Political Oppression was delivered by Dr Mebada Wanka Lyngdoh Nongbri, State Consultant with World Vision India. Detailing instances of political oppression in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, Dr Nongbri outlined how religion is often used by regimes to gain support. From the biblical account, she identified examples of resistance against oppression and despotic power. The presentation was concluded with several suggested action plans for the church and Christian community, including the development of training modules to teach constitutional values, the church’s stand against unjust states, advocacies and empowering the youth.
Professor Mathew Koshy, Hon. Director of the Church of South India’s Ecological Department, led the second thematic expression on Life-Flourishing Creation: Ecological and Economic Justice. Through a series of principles, he demonstrated God’s original purpose for creation, the interconnectedness of all creation and humankind’s responsibility as stewards of God’s creation. Prof. Koshy documented the worsening ecological disasters around the globe and proposed how local communities can take part in energy and water conservation, recycling, replanting and waste management in order to preserve the rights of nature. He outlined the church’s responsibility to train people on adaptation and mitigation at the local level, with an emphasis on minimum exploitation of natural resources, increasing the green cover on earth and observing green protocol for all functions.
The South Asia Pre-Assembly was a time of mutual learning and sharing as the delegates were familiarised with the Assembly theme, strengthening the family ties with each other and were led through a time of preparation during which several social issues were brought up for their deliberation and reflection.