World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
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Asian and Pacific church leaders gather in China
The joint meeting, which takes place every three years, will identify common and emerging issues and priorities for ecumenical involvement and joint action in the regions. Participants will also have the opportunity to observe the life and witness of Chinese Christians and the changes taking place as the People's Republic of China undergoes a transformation from a socialist, centrally-controlled system to a market-oriented economy in a globalized system.
The Pacific regional group will be looking closely at issues of tradition and culture in relation to international human rights standards. Also, in light of recent crises in the region, the group will reflect on the role of churches and civil society. The group's main aim will be to determine the priorities for WCC regional work in the Pacific for the coming three years.
Matthews George Chunakara, WCC executive secretary for Asia, notes that discussion in the past between the two regional groups has emphasized the impact of economic involvement by Asian companies expanding their offshore activities in the Pacific, including joint ventures between foreign companies and state-owned Chinese enterprises. "This has been a common concern for people in Asia and the Pacific," he notes, "especially those business enterprises which drain natural resources from developing countries and ultimately affect the sustainable development and economic growth which should have helped the common people in the regions."
As part of the meeting, participants will visit the New Economic Zones near Shanghai, and will have an opportunity to observe the effect of the new economic trends in urban and rural communities. They will meet with people who, at local and national levels, have given leadership to the Chinese churches over the past several decades. Bishop K.H. Ting, a prominent ecumenical leader from the People's Republic of China, will greet and address the participants at the joint meeting's inaugural session.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.