A beautiful tapestry of diversity
LWF Asia Vice-President Kwon shares her hope for unity
(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Vice-President for Asia, Eun-hae Kwon, will be among LWF representatives participating in the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of 500 years of the Reformation on 31 October in the cities of Lund and Malmö, Sweden.
In this interview, she highlights some of the joint diaconal and study projects inspired by the commemoration in Asia. Kwon shares her hope that the unity which will be demonstrated at the event will affirm “our deeply rooted theological understanding of being one in God’s creation—a beautiful tapestry of diversity, sharing unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Lutheran World Information: What is the importance of the joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration in Lund and Malmö from your perspective?
Eun-hae Kwon: From many parts of the fragmented world in which we live, Lutherans and Roman Catholics will gather together in Lund and Malmö to rediscover their wholeness in Christ. In God’s grace we are called to bring a message of reconciliation to the world. This joint commemoration will mark a new milestone in our history, and will strengthen our commitment to unity and common mission, offering a powerful message of comfort, hope and transformation to a broken world.
How are Lutherans and Catholics working together in your region? Can you give an example of good cooperation?
In Asia, we have several inspiring examples of Lutherans and Catholics working together in a spirit of reconciliation. The signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by Lutherans, Catholics and Methodists at a national level in Malaysia in April this year was a highlight. In a country where Christians are in a minority, this signing opened a new era of witnessing together in unity and cooperation. After the signing, the three denominations embarked on several projects, including the formation of study committees to reflect on the joint report From Conflict to Communion in order to seek closer relations and ways to witness together. They have also begun discussions on how to commemorate the 2017 Reformation anniversary within the wider ecumenical context in Malaysia.
How can we work together in hope for refugees and displaced people in your region?
In 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the Asia and Pacific region had 3.8 million refugees, 2.9 million internally displaced people and about 1.5 million stateless individuals. Out of the 4.6 million Syrians fleeing the war at home and seeking refuge in other countries, more than 650,000 are refugees in Jordan, where the LWF is providing support at the Za’atari refugee camp and in host communities. In northern Iraq, the LWF has provided around 50,000 internally displaced people with relief goods and shelter. In Asia, Lutherans and Catholics can work together to support such global efforts.
With more refugees on the move but few Asian countries giving them a warm welcome, churches in the region need to raise their voices, saying, “Welcome, stranger.” In cooperation with faith leaders and faith-based organizations, churches should call on their governments, as members of the international community, to share the responsibility of receiving refugees.
How is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation being commemorated in your region?
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is being commemorated in different ways by our member churches throughout Asia. Some member churches have translated the LWF Reformation anniversary booklet into their local languages in order to study the Reformation more deeply. Churches have been organizing pilgrimages to Reformation-related sites in Europe, and special editions of Luther’s Works will be published by some member churches. Several churches are in dialogue with Catholics on a national level in order to jointly prepare to commemorate the anniversary. Lutheran seminaries and colleges in the region are also hosting conferences and symposiums on Luther’s theology. Furthermore, there are several “Living Reformation” projects developed by members of the Global Young Reformers Network in the LWF member churches.
You will represent LWF and your region in Lund and Malmö. What are you looking forward to personally during the day?
I’m looking forward to witnessing our unity in Christ by singing and praying together in Lund. I believe that many congregations in our regions will join in watching and participating in the Joint Commemoration, hopefully together with their Catholic neighbors. I hope the common prayer—to be proclaimed together in local congregations worldwide and at the international event in Sweden—will offer Lutherans and Catholics a chance to increase our mutual understanding and respect. I trust it will also motivate the churches and the global ecumenical movement to work more closely together with the vulnerable and the marginalized in our society.
I hope the unity we demonstrate in Lund will reveal the essential value of praying and working together. When we work to respect our differences and resolve our conflicts we draw on the deeply rooted theological understanding of being one in God’s creation—a beautiful tapestry of diversity, sharing unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ms Eun-hae Kwon is a member of the Lutheran Church in Korea, and has served as LWF Vice-President for Asia since 2010.