Asia: Pre-Assembly message highlights religious freedom, justice, and diakonia

23 Jun 2023

The Asia Pre-Assembly message expresses grave concern about religious freedom and emphasizes the commitment of Asia member churches to peace and diakonia.

Participants of the Asia Pre-Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, showing up the “One” of the Assembly theme. Photo: LWF/Jotham Lee

Participants of the Asia Pre-Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, showing up the “One” of the Assembly theme. Photo: LWF/Jotham Lee

“Called to work towards justice, peace and reconciliation”

(LWI) - The message from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Asia Pre-Assembly highlighted the church’s role in the public space and freedom of religion in multi-ethnic and multi-religious contexts.

Asia is “a large continent with numerous contexts and realities. We thank God that this has not been an obstacle to cooperation but rather a dynamic point of convergence,” the message states. With a “strong spirit of fellowship, commitment to diakonia and peace, our hearts come together for the future of our local and global communion.”  

The Asian church leaders express grave concern at the “different degrees of oppression” faced by many churches in the Asia region. “Tightened government policies limit freedom of speech, increase oppression, and attempt to eliminate opposing voices who raise legitimate concerns affecting society. These policies prevent us from living our faith freely and violate human rights,” the message states.

The message highlights the importance of theological education and equal access of men, women, and youth to formal theological education. It encourages cooperation in this field, including equipping students for “constructive interfaith engagement.”

The message calls for ongoing efforts to strengthen the “vision, commitment and ability of youth and women, which can enrich the communion”, to involve “men, women and youth in all levels of decisions and actions” and urges “member churches to act against cultural and societal constraints that prevent equal rights and opportunities for all.”

A blessing for host churches and region

“For us as hosts, the Pre-Assembly has truly been a blessing,” said Steven Lawrence, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia, after the Asia Pre-Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “It gave us the opportunity to share the struggles we experience as sister churches in Asia.” He said that although the churches were very diverse, the Pre-Assembly had contributed to better understanding and collaboration efforts in areas such as theological education.

“Many of the 119 participants came to Kuala Lumpur as ‘strangers’, but the Asia Pre-Assembly has provided them the space not just to prepare for Krakow but also to live out the Assembly theme: united as One Body, guided by the One Spirit, and anchored in One Hope,” said LWF’s Regional Secretary for Asia, Rev. Dr. Philip Lok.

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.

Photos of the Asia Pre-Assembly

LWF/A. Weyermüller