WCC Korea 5: Pre-Assemblies
Today concludes the Pre-Assemblies here at the World Council of Church’s 10th Assembly in Korea. Tomorrow will be Day One of the 10th Assembly itself.
Between us, my wife Ka Hyun and I managed to at least some extent experience all four of the Pre-Assemblies, these being:
1. the Pre-Assembly of a Community of Men & Women on which Ka Hyun reports to her Congregation at St. Stephen The Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby, Canada below;
2. the Pre-Assembly of Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN) we attended together;
3. The Pre-Assembly for Youth (participants under 30) which I managed to attend, but only briefly during a half-hour break in the Indigenous People Pre-Assembly; and
4. the Pre-Assembly of Indigenous People which Ka Hyun attended some of, but which I was able to attend far more of and so it forms the bulk of my report below.
Pre-Assembly of Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network (EDAN)
Given that my Mom was confined to a wheelchair by polio for the final 19 years of her life (being the first 22 years of my life), I felt compelled to attend this Pre-Assembly. I was so impressed by what I heard and saw — the Holy Spirit working in these disabled participants was awesome. Your could sense their determination, their confidence God is with them. But stories we heard were so sad — at one time some countries, Jamaica for example, refused the testimony in Court of rape victims who were blind. Today these Courts recognize the blind can identify their assailants through other senses such as their sense of smell and their hearing being sharp enough to identify voice tones. We heard from African delegates of violence against women and children with disabilities. We heard of how vulnerable people with intellectual disabilities are, especially if victimized by people in their own family and a code of silence sets in. Also, people with intellectual disabilities may be unable to realize that what’s being done to them is wrong.
My sense of this Pre-Assembly is that awareness that disabilities are just that is rising worldwide, as opposed to the traditional view in too many places that disabilities meant inferiority. Also, today people with disabilities receive considerable help from global institutions such as the WCC through raising worldwide awareness and accordingly diminishing prejudice against them. Most of all, I was struck as mentioned above by the powerful souls of these people, of their determination to not be victimized, of their support for one another and of the Holy Spirit working within them. There’s still much to be done, but the world is moving into a better place, and that’s wonderful.
Pre-Assembly of Youth
As mentioned, I was only able to attend this briefly so I don’t know much. It seemed there were not as many people as I would have expected, and that energy levels were low, but this could be because they were discussing procedural points. They were trying to identify their priorities. I would have thought the alarming absence of youth in Christian Churches would have been a priority but I didn’t pick up that it was. It also seemed most of those present were closer to 30 than 18 years old, but again I wasn’t present long enough to state anything with certainty. More on this important topic should unfold in the coming days. And I must emphasise again that I was unable to do justice to this Pre-Assembly because so much of my focus and my time were devoted to the fourth of these four Pre-Assemblies, that of Indigenous Peoples.
Pre-Assembly of Indigenous Peoples
This Pre-Assembly captured most of my time because of my growing awareness of this situation in Canada. When Ka Hyun and I arrived, the first person we found ourselves talking with was Canadian Anglican Indigenous Peoples Bishop Mark Macdonald. Bishop Mark is deeply involved in this Pre-Assembly, especially as a drafter on the Committee that created this Pre-Assembly’s final report. I was struck by how many countries worldwide had Indigenous People present — including of course Australia, New Zealand, America, Latin America and nations such as India where it was reported that 400 million Indigenous Peoples were being subjugated by those in authority.
It struck me how similar the stories were worldwide. and how much Indigenous Peoples have in common regardless of their separate languages, races, nations, and specific stories. Indigenous People from Norway were ably represented by Tore Johnsen, Secretary General of the Sami Church Council of the Church of Norway. Clad in ethnic clothing, Tore did a superb job as Moderator for the Drafting Committee report to the session. Speaker after speaker from every continent impressed me. These included The Reverend Ken Sumner, an Aborigine who is National Director of the National Council of Churches in Australia NATSIEC; Dr, Wati Longchar of India; Sarah Augustine and The Reverend Chebon Kernell, American Indians; The Reverend Liberato Bautista, the Assistant General Secretary of United Nations and International Affairs of the United Methodist Church; and The Reverend Diana Tana, a Maori of New Zealand to name a few.
Best of all, in addition to Bishop Mark, Canada had Harvey Eagle of Winnipeg present at this Pre-Convention. Harvey’s a First Nations Canadian who is the Co-ordinator of Indigenous Work for the Mennonite Central Committee Canada. Harvey is also a Facilitator specializing in conflict, trauma and oppression. He has a Masters of Arts in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University in British Columbia. I learnt so much from interviewing Bishop Mark this morning and Harvey during the supper break. He and Bishop Mark are such fine people — they are credits to Canada.
I have much more I want to report regarding this Indigeneous People’s Pre-Assembly, and especially concerning what Harvey Eagle and BIshop Mark Macdonald told me, but I must stop because the hour is late and tomorrow is such a big day — Day One of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches!
Yours faithfully, Roddy