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June 2010

Sharing talents and creativity part of ecumenical journey

An exciting and life-changing experience is how New Zealand representative Poulima Salima describes his experience in a two week intensive Asia Ecumenical Cours that included taking part the 13th General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia.

Poulima has a Samoan background and attends Mt Albert Methodist Church. He says the theme of the ecumenical course and assembly focused on reconciliation and healing.

The theme resonated through the music, lyrics, performances, prayers and testimonies of faith. It reflected the complex and conflicting Asian realities such as bad governance, human trafficking, human rights violations, and religious extremism.

"I was overwhelmed by the diversity of participants in the ecumenical course. They came from: Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Taiwan, Aotearoa-New Zealand, Philippines and Malaysia.

"Everyone was very energetic, courageous and fun to be with. I was amazed with the creativity, passion and enthusiasm. It was strong, encouraging and infectious. We had fun learning, speaking and singing in various languages."

Poulima and friends rehearsing for a presentation at CCA Assembly. Poulima playing at the opening

Poulima says his group gave the opening worship for General Assembly. They had to come up with their own cultural dance

"The choreography and dance gestures represented the identity of each culture. The power and spirit of the lyrics sung in their respective languages was soul-stirring. We had all the Asian instruments and percussion you could possibly think of and we wore our cultural costumes.

"Some of the church leaders commented that it was the best opening worship service since they joined the General Assembly."

Poulima says the young people wanted to remind all conference participants about unity, justice and healing. This was delivered through song, dance and drama.

"We had all the styles of songs you could possibly think of from ancient Asian folk type tunes, to hymns, and contemporary music. The orchestration fused cultural instruments and the choir to make the music catchy and interesting. We also performed a 25 minute drama."

During the ecumenical course there was bible studies and personal reflections. Participants shared their faith journey, background and goals. Most participants were theological students, or teachers and lecturers of theology and young church pastors and ministers.

"I admired their passion and zeal for God’s mission. Their life of dedication, commitment and service to God’s work in their churches, communities and villages was a blessing."

He says speakers at the ecumenical course discussed the cultures and churches in Malaysia. Religion plays a big role in society and it can be a source of tension and conflict. Other guest speakers talked about efforts to provide programs and training for young people to channel their energies so that churches in Asia become a prophetic voice in denouncing human rights violations.

"I was inspired by the testimonies from pastors and church ministers who shared their faith, hardship and the darkest moments of their lives, of being beaten and tortured because of their faith in Christ and mission. Hearing them testify about God’s goodness and faithfulness during times of suffering and hardship was inspiring for all participants to carry their cross as well.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Asian Ecumenical Course and the Christian Conference of Asia General Assembly. It was definitely the beginning of my ecumenical journey. My prayer for the Methodist Church of Aotearoa-New Zealand is unity and that its people celebrate and share our diversity to advance God’s kingdom."