The first ever global youth forum organised by Council for World Mission(CWM) was held at Johannesburg, South Africa from 22 to 28 august. There were around 120 youths from different countries representing each churches of six regions of Council for World Mission(CWM) at Johannesburg, South Africa. From south Asian Region there were seven representatives. In which there were two representatives from Church of South India. One from Cochin Diocese (Charley Varkey) and One from Jaffna Diocese (Naomi Recka Vasanthkumar). The theme of the Youth forum was “Building Disciples in the context of Empire: Reimaging Church”.
The program was in the right time when we all have influence in our life of the Empire in varied forms. We all were joyful in our gathering and purposeful in our intent to understand what it means to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of Empire and to reimagine what it means to be a Church together to fight against the influence of the empire. we recognized that the differences between us is more than national or even cultural. There are forces beyond and above us that is fracturing our world we live in. During the sessions, discussions and the experience shared we understood that the world we live in is fragmented.
There was visit to Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum and Nelson Mandela House in Soweto, which showed us that how the empire through the methods of Imperialism, Racism, colonialism and patriarchy can split communities apart and break the human spirit down. During the Youth forum we shared the stories and experience of the indigenous people who is struggling in the hands of the empire for their rightful things like land and resources. We saw the social imbalances result in richer and more powerful groups marginalising and discriminating against those without the status or resources to defend. In the youth forum we understood many young people are denied access to quality education, cannot afford it or are crippled by debt.
Towards the end Youth Forum, we understood that our commitment to Jesus means that we cannot be neutral in the midst of what is happening around us, but that we are called to take sides with Jesus and We believe that the Jesus we believe in stands on the margins and with the most vulnerable people. This is the stand that we should choose to take. We understood that our commitment to the hope that the Holy Spirit offers take us into subversive action in the world and is the call to a resistance. We recognize that the Holy Spirit calls us to comfort the mournful and discomfort those who are comfortable. We recognize this as an active and participatory resistance to Empire.
The keynote speaker of the program was Rev.Dr.Collin Cowan, General secretary of CWM. The Bible studies were Conducted by Rev.Sikhalo Cele from (UCCSA), Zimbabwe, Rev.Dr.Lesmore Gibson Ezekiel from kenya and Dr Wai Ching Wong Angela,(UBCE)Honk Kong. There were Thematic presentations were was conducted by Rev. Philip Vinod peacock (India) in the theme “Addressing the Empire” ,Dr. HyeRan Kim-Cragg(Canada) in the theme “Growing as Disciple” and Rev.Kraig Diedrick (Jamaica) in the theme “Reimaging Church”. In the youth forum there was a session named “struggle for change”. In which the speaker showed what they have experienced when they fought against the empire. They are Ms Yueh-Wen Lu from Taiwan in the theme “Sunflower Movement “, Ms Nikhila Henry from India in the theme “Caste”, Mr Maina Talia from Tuvalu in the theme “Climate Change”, Rev Rikko Voorberg from Netherlands in the theme “Migration” and Rev Kevin Nana Moses from the Caribbean in the theme “Human Trafficking” .
There were many outcome of the youth forum. some of them are 1) when we receive a answer, we should make critical refection on it 2) we should be aware of the de-sensitizing nature of our media and culture and proactively resist it 3) There should be platform for young people to voice their views within our local churches and communities. As youth’s we should need crucial insights, gifts and talents to offer in shaping the Church to serve God’s call. As such, we should be actively involved in all aspects of Church Life like leading worship, preaching, praying, pastoral care, outreach, social justice etc. 4) As youths we should take responsibility for our present and future, both in and outside Church. The youth should be daring in the face of difficult struggles and fight against the systems and structures which fail to serve their purposes. we should also be determined to make a real difference in the world around us. 5) As Youth we must take clear and significant action to challenge the issues and concerns which Empire brings to us and to those around us.
On the last day of the forum, all youths were called and asked to submit a project that can be implemented in our region. From the south Asian region, the theme of the program which we submitted was “Inter-Faith coalition against Human Trafficking and Child Labour”.
The Youth Forum was a good experience for all of us. The forum showed the insights into the different problems faced by the youths and their communities. It also showed the different methods they there are using to fight the empire back. The forum showed the cooperation of different churches on different levels, one as Christ children’s for the betterment of the world. The Forum acknowledge each churches (Synods) for strengthing the word of Christ though many different activities and in varied levels and the influence/change each are making in their communities.