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NCC Prepares Delegation Visit to Asia March 28-April 8

March 17, 2005, NEW YORK CITY - A National Council of Churches USA delegation leaves March 28 for Asia, where delegation members will be guests of the Christian Conference of Asia’s 12th General Assembly in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and then will visit tsunami-affected areas of Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar will lead the group, which will listen for issues of current importance to Christians in Asia and observe how current U.S. policy is affecting the region. The group also will seek to demonstrate solidarity with Asian colleagues as they continue to rebuild following the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami.

”Building Communities of Peace for All” is the theme of March 31-April 6 General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia. The CCA is a regional ecumenical organization representing 15 National Councils and more than 100 churches in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.

The CCA meets in Assembly every five years. Dr. Edgar will bring greetings to the 12th Assembly, and the delegation will share its analysis of a variety of issues, including U.S. foreign policy as it pertains to Asia.

“Time will especially be taken for individual and group meetings with Asian religious leaders to listen to their issues and concerns,” Dr. Edgar said.

On April 3, the delegation will split into two groups and travel to Indonesia and Sri Lanka for visits April 4-6.

In Indonesia, group members will be hosted by the Methodist Church of Indonesia and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, and will consider the situation of Christians in the context of a Muslim majority along with post-tsunami needs. In Sri Lanka, in addition to the tsunami tragedy, the group will consider the situation of Christians in the context of a Buddhist majority. Serving as host there will be the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka.

“The U.S. ecumenical community is deeply involved in post-tsunami response,” noted Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace. “Church World Service, the international humanitarian agency that provides aid on behalf of the NCC’s 36 member churches, has a particularly large presence in Indonesia, and the NCC’s Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations, the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, and its Director of Faithful America, Vince Isner, visited Indonesia and Sri Lanka Jan. 7-19 to explore potential church-to-church connections.

“We expect this delegation visit will lay a solid groundwork for the NCC’s long-term work with Asian ecumenical colleagues on issues of common concern,” Dr. Kireopoulos said.

Members of the NCC delegation are:

The Rev. Elaine Barnes, a United Methodist minister from Philadelphia; the Rev. Jonathan Barton, General Minister, Virginia State Council of Churches, Richmond; the Rev. Liberato Bautista, United Methodist Church representative to the United Nations, New York City; the Rev. Rothangeliani Chhangte, Director of Ecumenical Formation, American Baptist Churches USA, Valley Forge, Pa.; Paula Diane McGehee, a Houston attorney and a United Methodist; the Rev. Larry Pickens, Chief Executive of the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, United Methodist Church, New York City; the Rev. Raafat Zaki, Asia Coordinator, Presbyterian Church USA, Louisville, Ky.; Dr. Edgar; Dr. Kireopoulos, and Dr. Premawardhana.

Also traveling to Thailand for the CCA General Assembly from the ecumenical community in the United States will be Rebecca Asedillio of the United Methodist Church, New York City; Victor Hsu, Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of Church World Service, New York, a Presbyterian; the Rev. Youngsook Kang, Deputy General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church, New York, and the Rev. Dr. Insik Kim, Asia Coordinator for the Presbyterian Church USA, Louisville, Ky.


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