WCC Assembly theme sparks a poem from Asian bishop
For Asian churches, the theme of the upcoming World Council of Churches (WCC) assembly is more than a prayer, a reminder to the church or harbinger of the future.
The WCC 10th Assembly will be held from October 30 to November 8, in Busan, Republic of Korea.
Its theme is “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”
For 49 Asian church representatives meeting this week in Bangkok, Thailand, nearly eight months in advance of the assembly, the theme presents an opportunity to reflect on how God’s kingdom can be made present in the world today.
Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, has even gone so far as to expand the theme so that it becomes an active journey in faith, and not just a starting point toward justice and peace.
In a poem he crafted while listening to the discussions about the theme, Marigza realised that to make the theme come alive, the church must also be led from injustice and the lack of peace to doing justice.
“I have written this small poem,” Marigza said to the group, adding that it was not enough merely to request that God “lead us to justice and peace.”
“God of life, lead us from injustice and un-peace to justice and peace,” he said, reading from two sheets of notebook paper on which he had written the poem.
The poem goes on to say, “Lead us to see injustice in Asia and in this world, of people against people, of people against nature, of structures and systems that dehumanise and ravage creation.”
“God of life, lead us to do justice and peace,” he said, reading the start of the third stanza in the poem.
Marigza’s poem reflected what was being said around the table and in small groups, where participants from Asian churches talked at length about their joy and excitement upon learning that the assembly theme would address justice and peace.
Many recounted their personal experiences of oppression and discrimination and the challenges that their churches and societies face because of economic deprivation, poverty, environmental degradation and violence against churches.
From the group’s discussion, it was clear that the theme is not just about the Asian churches, most of which are minority communities, but that justice and peace is for all – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, majority and minority groups, indigenous and those of settler heritage.
The participants, who came from 15 different Asian countries, including Myanmar, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and represented individual communions and regional councils of churches, will all be delegates at the assembly and are keen on the theme of justice and peace becoming not simply a prayer but also an answer to prayer.
“To bring about justice and peace, we are not just to pray, but also advocate and do and work for total salvation,” Marigza wrote.