A seminar in Chiang Mai, Thailand, “Ecumenical Diakonia, Churches’ Response to Sustainable Development Goals in Asia,” is taking place 24-26 October. Jointly organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia, the seminar is the third in a series of eight taking place across Asia, Africa, and the Pacific.
Rev. Neliana Santo Nope, the Protestant Church in East Timor Photo: WCC
25 October 2022
In a thematic address delivered at the opening session, Christian Conference of Asia general secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara observed that diakonia was an integral part of the mission of the church.
Chunakara added that the core principle of the sustainable development goals is that “no one is left behind,” and this is in line with the cardinal principle of embracing all God’s people and working for their welfare.
A reflection on ecumenical diakonia as a spiritual struggle was given by Metropolitan Dr Yakob Mar Irenaios, chairperson of the Churches’ Auxiliary for Social Action, India, who said: “Ecumenical diakonia is aimed at mitigating the sufferings and privations of all who experience deprivation and exploitation.”
Real witnessing is not through speeches or sermons, but through life and life-enhancing activities, added Irenaios. “To say that ecumenical diakonia is the mission and witness of the church means that the church is to continue what the Messiah has been, and is still, doing in this world, and that is the real mission,” he said. “Mission and witness always go together.”
Rev. Matthew Ross, WCC programme executive for Diakonia and Capacity Building, said: “This seminar has brought together participants from across Asia to learn more about diakonia in the context of sustainable development, particularly focusing on how churches can address the challenges posed by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
The seminar was also an opportunity to use a new joint WCC and ACT Alliance publication, “Called to Transformation: Ecumenical Diakonia,” as a resource and study guide.
“There is increasing concern that the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be met, but this cannot be used an excuse not to try even harder – the lives of millions depend on this,” said Ross. “If the aims of the Sustainable Development Goals were to be realised in full, the risk of potentially catastrophic climate change could be reduced and the quality of life of the world’s poorest one billion people substantially increased.”
One of the 35 participants, Rev. Neliana Santo Nope, of the Protestant Church in East Timor [Iglesia Protestante iha Timor Lorosa’e] said: “This has been an important opportunity to learn about diakonia and the Sustainable Development Goals. It has been great to meet church leaders from across Asia and share ideas together.”