Asia: Witnessing to the love of God in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic context

15 Jun 2023

Being church and living in diverse contexts across the region, LWF’s member churches in Asia are gathering for their Pre-Assembly to shape their contribution to the Thirteenth Assembly.

Asia Pre-Assembly - opening

LWF Council members from the Asia region rejoicing and singing during the morning devotion. From left: Rev. Aaron Yap, Desri Sumbayak and Ranjita Borgoary. Photo: LWF/Jotham Lee 

Women and youth of the region pinpoint priorities

(LWI) - The last of the Pre-Assemblies preparing delegates for the Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) takes place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 14 to 19 June. At the start of the conference, a welcome dinner and cultural evening brought together about 120 participants representing the LWF member churches in the Asia region. 

The Asia Pre-Assembly is hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia (ELCM) and the Lutheran Church in Malaysia (LCM). Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, with about 60 percent of the population belonging to that religion. Buddhists follow with about 20 percent, and Christians with just over 9 percent. 

Bringing consensus among diversity 

ELCM Bishop Steven Lawrence welcomed participants to Malaysia, “a truly blessed land where we experience what it means to be the salt and light of the world daily. Just read the newspapers, and you will understand what I mean by that.” 

“ELCM is a church committed to Diakonia ministry and strives to witness the Gospel in a multicultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religious society,” Lawrence said.    

“Though we may be a minority group in Malaysia, we play a significant leadership role among the Christian community in our country, bringing consensus among a diversity of Christian churches from different traditions, speaking with a unified voice both to the other religious groups and the government,” said LCM Bishop Thomas Low. “Malaysia is a country that is multi-religious and multicultural. We have found ways to work together despite those differences, even among the Muslim majority.” 

The Assembly theme “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope” speaks to this context well. “We gather together as Asians, and more importantly, as One Body in Christ, sharing the One same Hope in the One Spirit to bear witness to the love of God from all four corners of the Asian continent,” said Low. “We are many, yet One in Christ.”

Asia Pre-Assembly - women

Participants of the women’s meeting. Photo: LWF/Jotham Lee

Women and youth prepare 

Before the Pre-Assembly, the women and youth had meetings to discuss specific issues among themselves and develop priorities to be presented to the Pre-Assembly and the Women and Youth meetings preceding the Assembly in Krakow. 

Using a see–judge–act approach, participants of the women’s meeting developed priorities for women’s empowerment and gender justice. “Ten years since its publication, implementing the Gender Justice Policy at all church levels remains high on the agenda,” said Rev. Dr. Marcia Blasi, LWF’s Program Executive for Gender Justice and Women’s Empowerment. Preparing women for and supporting them in leadership positions and as theologically trained women is another priority. Women also stressed the importance of theological training required for sound interpretation of Biblical scriptures. In addition, they emphasized educating women and girls, and men and boys to build gender-just relationships. 

Participants of the youth meeting identified three priorities they want to promote: intergenerational understanding, youth engagement, and church in public. The latter has three subpoints: interfaith dialogue, diaconia,  and care for creation. 

“Particularly the emphasis on interfaith dialogue and the active participation and engagement of youth in these processes was stressed by participants from the Asian context,” said Savanna Sullivan, LWF’s Program Executive for Youth. “Living in a multi-religious world is part of the day-to-day reality of many and these young people know that the social cohesion of their contexts suffers when they are not included in interfaith conversations and leadership.”  

They also identified the need to strengthen the unity of the church by having more youth representation in all decision-making spaces and by creating opportunities for meaningful intergenerational relationship building outside of worship. 

Asia Pre-Assembly - youth

Participants of the youth meeting. Photo: LWF/Jotham Lee 

The Asia Pre-Assembly takes place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 14-18 June 2023. The Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation takes place 13-19 September 2023 in Krakow, Poland. The theme of the Assembly will be “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope”. It will be hosted by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland.

LWF/A. Weyermüller