/ The East Asian Regional Conference (EARC) was held on 17 and 18 July 2020. Members from the East Asian region came together and had a conference, talking about issues related to their every day and God’s task for us. This year, the conference is held online as supposed to the usual physical meeting. Let’s hear from our CF-ers on what they have reflected from the sessions. /
I found out about EARC earlier in the year in March. It was going to be held in Thailand and I was initially hesitant to register due to the worsening pandemic situation. I did not know what to expect from EARC when I heard that it was shifted online and registered for it. Hence, it was both frightening and somehow reassuring to log in and find hundreds of people in the room: fellow students from different movements around Asia hoping to learn from each other. Worship reminded me of the first time I stepped into NTU-CF where I first participated in worship with the Chinese and Indonesian Students sections of CF and I immediately felt a bond with the other conference-goers, knowing that despite our different languages and cultures, we all find our identity in Christ and were able to worship as a whole. This also made the group sharing after the exposition much easier. We dived into introductions and I was surprised to find out that quite a few of the participants were older students who had attended the previous EARC and were returning to attend again. Everyone was keen to hear more about the movements back home and the unique challenges each were facing, I had the opportunity to hear more about six other countries and schools, and their experiences differed greatly from what I thought I knew about those countries. I was especially amazed to hear that many of them are trying to reach out to movements from neighbouring countries, something that we have never thought about in NTU-CF. I wish more time could have been spent together with the group as everyone seemed to have more that they wanted to share about and it’s easy to understand why so many of them were so excited to return after their first experience at EARC.
– Gabriel Hsu, Year 3 Mathematical Sciences and Economics
EARC was conducted online this year due to the COVID outbreak and its original plans of having it physically at Bangkok had been cancelled. This breakthrough provided a window of opportunity for more Christian students, including myself, to participate in. Indeed, it was a fulfilling experience after re-examining our Christian identity and mission, as well as exchanging our views with students of various nationalities and backgrounds on pertinent issues. The second day of the conference had us understood better about social issues that concern Christians in the world today and what are the desirable responses we can adopt in dealing with these issues.
This year’s conference’s theme – “Unfinished” – speaks about how we as part of the Universal Church are not, and never, done with fulfilling God’s restoration plan for the world. The workshop I attended discussed on “Serving the Marginalized”, with the marginalized described as a prominent group of people who require our attention and assistance. Issues involving inequality, unfairness and injustice were surfaced within the forum, and what I had in mind was, what can we do to help and deal with these issues the vulnerable faced? Truly, this was something I found perplexing, given my limited financial capabilities as a student now. However, as the forum continued, exhibiting love and compassion was the ultimate way in reaching out to the unheard. Just as how Jesus loves us all, regardless of who we are, we are told to “love thy neighbors as thyself” (Matt 22:39). And through this same love, we first help to amplify their outcries of pain and prejudice which the rest of the society had previously ignored. The next step, was to engage with them and point them to our faith in God and the Gospel. Brewed from this same ingredient, love, we ought to let them know that Jesus died as a ransom and hence, He loves us all as His beloved children. At this point, I felt encouraged that there is hope for the marginalized to depend on, and this hope is Jesus. Only with the love that Jesus exemplifies, the world may gradually shift their focus on the marginalized, and with an added ounce of compassion and awareness, appropriate action can be done to change the status quo. As we approached towards the end of the forum, a concise summary of the forum was done by the speaker – “As Christians, we recognize that service to the marginalized as evidence of our faith, as actions done in love, and they are done to point them to Jesus and the Gospel”. Certainly, I was comforted in this succinct maxim when reaching out to the marginalized comes into play. Thereafter, there was a short group discussion on the forum in a Zoom breakout room where we shared various issues that disadvantage the marginalized from our respective countries.
After the forum ended, I thought of the public protests to George Floyd’s demise, which reflected violent and barbaric acts protestors including the marginalized Black community adopted. They were fighting for a cause against prevalent racism in America and certainly, I feel that their cause is justified. Many were known to voice out bitterness felt by the Black community and were sanguine in supporting the Black Lives Movement. However, their modus operandi was rather disappointing, as we adhere to Christ’s call to love and never to be “angry with a brother or sister” (Matt 5:22). Violence is definitely invalidated in God’s Kingdom, and in my opinion, that is where Christians should earnestly and fervently speak as a response against injustice like this. Love is lacking and hence required to restore peace and cohesion within societies in America in this instance. As an effort to build God’s Kingdom while abandoning worldly thoughts and actions, love and subservience to God are indeed potions people need in dealing with another fellow group or being created by the same God we love and honor. I learnt that, as Christians, we should never hesitate in exercising our faiths. By proclamation of our faiths, we reinstate this same faith in the marginalized and gradually have peace and love to be propagated among every member in God’s complete Kingdom.
This is still an “unfinished” mission. Besides contributing directly to aid the vulnerable and practising our faiths, I am inspired and would like to inspire other Christians to think of other issues which can and should be bothering our society in Singapore today. Such issues include ignorance and discrimination to the plights of the poor and disabled, the possibility of destructive politics, and an apathetic outlook Singaporeans have towards conservation and environmental issues. These can be starting points where Singaporean Christians may act upon while reflecting the love of Jesus and the light of God on others. After all, it is never too late to be a part of this global restoration project God has commissioned His people to embark on.
– Chia Kai Tiak, Year 2 Public Policy and Global Affairs