By Ruth Mathen
Medan, August 16, 2019: Mathews George Chunakara, an Indian, has been reelected the general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA).
Archbishop Willem T P Simarmata, the CCA moderator, announced that the conference’s executive committee had unanimously voted to re-elect Chunakara for a second term.
Simarmata made the announcement at the opening session of the Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS)-IX held in Medan, Indonesia, attended by more than 130 Asian theologians and church leaders.
A cross-section of representatives from different countries were invited by the CCA moderator to come to the dais and wrap Chunakara with a traditional ‘ulos’ as a symbolic expression of extending their congratulations. The ‘ulos’ is a meticulously hand-woven traditional textile of the Batak people of North Sumatra in Indonesia, and is usually presented as a symbolic ceremonial gift to respected people on special occasions.
A special prayer was offered by leaders representing the CCA’s member Churches from different Asian countries.
The CCA moderator elaborated, “According to the CCA’s constitutional provisions, the Executive Committee has been vested with the authority to elect or re-elect the General Secretary of the CCA. All Executive Committee members who met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, were of the firm conviction that Dr Mathews George was dedicated and capable in continuing to lead the CCA. His vision, determination, and certitude are clear and evident.”
The CCA office bearers interviewed Reverend Chunakara and evaluated his four years of performance. The general secretary shared his future vision and strategic plans for CCA.
Chunakara was elected the CCA general secretary in February 2015, at a meeting of the CCA’s General Committee held at the Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand.
This is only the third time in the CCA’s 62 years of history that a general secretary has been elected for a second term.
Rev. Dr D.T. Niles (Sri Lanka), the first general secretary of the CCA, had also served for two consecutive terms for a decade from 1957 to 1967. In 1981, Bishop Yap Kim Hao (Singapore) was re-elected for a second term and held the office until 1985. All other general secretaries have served only one term each.
Chunakara, a lay member of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India, has served the Asian and global ecumenical movement in various capacities during the past three decades; including his tenure in CCA as an executive secretary for Indo-China Concerns, International Affairs and Human Rights from 1993 to 2000; Asia Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland; as well as the Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the WCC from 2000 to 2014.
The CCA underwent a major programmatic restructuring after Chunakara assumed his responsibilities as general secretary.
Chunakara said he would continue to initiate and implement programs that would help in revitalizing the CCA and the Asian ecumenical movement. “We live in a situation that poses innumerable challenges in Asia every day, and the CCA has a major role to play in coordinating and facilitating the programs and activities that will respond to the emerging challenges as part of our prophetic witness and mission in Asia,” he said. The CCA General Secretary added that he hopes to continue to live up to the trust that has been placed in him, directed by divine guidance.