1. Building Community and a Culture of Peace

"Peace" has become a crucial issue in these times of grave uncertainties and deep distress, as the world seems to be becoming a more violent place. There is also a rise of religious and ethnic conflicts and new tensions are emerging in communities where people of different religious backgrounds lived in peace and harmony for ages. For over 150 years, the YMCA has worked with people of different faiths and cultures in building communities and in working for peace.

It is in this background that the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs organised the Regional Programme on "Building Community and a Culture of Peace" on 10-14 October at the New Delhi YMCA, India. Fifty-two participants, mainly from YMCAs in South Asia, including other YMCAs in the region participated in the Programme.

Amongst some of the issues presented and discussed were different perspectives from different faith traditions on the concept of "peace" and "community", and how to build partnerships for promotion of justice and solidarity, regardless of culture, race or religion in building community. It was also an opportunity to explore deeper collaboration in interfaith cooperation and dialogue in addressing some common issues related to the impacts of the changing global scene - the appalling poverty that creates dehumanising conditions, moral degradation, denial of justice to the weaker sections of community, and the depletion of earth's resources. There was sharing of knowledge and experience on forming a concrete base for solidarity in transforming and building communities of justice, love and peace. The half-day exposure to community-building initiatives of the New Delhi YMCA with people of other faiths reinforced the deliberations on how to encourage people of different faiths to work together for the common good of the community. Dr. Fr. Prakash Louis, Executive Director of the Indian Social Institute, set the tone for the deliberations with his presentation on the Theme.

The participants called for the seeking of alternative development paradigms and lifestyles to meet the challenges of the globalised world, to play an appropriate role in mobilising actions for transformation of society and to voice out concerns against all forms of injustice. YMCAs present drew up plans for holding of national workshops with peoples of other faiths to address these needs and to network for appropriate joint actions in acting for just-peace.

We thank both the National Council of YMCAs of India and the New Delhi YMCA for hosting the programme.

2. Regional Programme on Violence Against Women

Violence against women is one of the most devastating consequences of gender inequality. The 43 men and women staff/lay leaders who participated in the regional programme on Violence Against Women (VAW) held on 6-11 November 2002 in Mumbai, India acknowledged this reality. The programme was conducted to reach a common understanding on the issue of violence against women, and identify the YMCA's roles and tasks in eliminating such violence and in advocating for gender justice within and outside the YMCAs.

The participants looked deeper into gender inequities and expressed that violence against women (VAW) is a manifestation of the lack of respect to the dignity of women. They noted that VAW is not only a women's issue, but also a human rights issue concerning both women and men. During the Workshop, they declared that gender-based violence which may be present and perpetuated in the family, community and the state continues to burden and threaten the lives of women whose plight and situation may indicate the level of human development in various cultures.

After a comprehensive study and deliberation on the issue through group discussions and inputs from distinguished resource persons, the participants developed strategies to address the issue. The exposure visit was highlighted by learning about the cycle of violence existing in a community trapped in poverty, sex trafficking, forced prostitution and labor migration involving women, children and the rest of the community. The visit to the organisations engaged in working on VAW gave the participants an opportunity to sincerely examine the YMCA's actions vis-a-vis the issue and helped them realise the urgency of addressing it. Plans were drawn up by the group to encourage the YMCAs to initiate/strengthen efforts towards working for a violence-free life for all noting that VAW includes human rights violations endangering the lives of all of the world's people.

YMCAs have been urged to adopt a gender perspective in all its policies, programmes and systems; encourage women's membership in the YMCAs; intensify awareness raising and capacity building efforts on gender issues; engage in advocacy work to eliminate gender-based violence; influence the media towards gender sensitive values and positive cultural initiatives; strengthen networking efforts with like-minded NGOs and encourage partnerships between men and women in all gender-related issues and actions. Further, YMCAs have been called upon to serve as a model for gender justice and not a reflection of existing social inequities and discrimination against women.

We thank the National Council of YMCAs of India and the Bombay (Mumbai) YMCA for hosting the Programme.

3. The 20th Advanced Studies Concludes

The 5-week intensive Advanced Studies Programme conducted by the Asia and Pacific Alliance from 26 October to 29 November was yet another significant experience for the 14 YMCA Secretaries who attended it. The Programme was inaugurated by Dr. Cecil Chan, Vice President of the Asia and Pacific Alliance on 29 October 2002, at an Inauguration Ceremony hosted by the YMCA of Hong Kong.

Dr. Philip Kwok, a Hon. President of the Chinese YMCA and a Past President of the Asia and Pacific Alliance, officiated at the Graduation Ceremony and presented Certificates to the graduates of the Programme at the Graduation Ceremony on 28 November, hosted by the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong.

The participants, including one each from the Africa Alliance and the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation, were : Semisi Saukawa, Fiji; Simon Chan, Hong Kong; Samson Samuel, India; Sarvjeet Singh, India; Tadakuni Tajiri, Japan; Hiroo Tsutsumi, Japan; Park Jang Dong, Korea; Youn Kyeong Tae, Korea; Naw Ja, Myanmar; Huang Liang-chin, Taiwan; Yu Tsung-jen, Taiwan; Pweena Supong, Thailand; Tigabe Asres, Ethiopia; Miguel E. Pacora Luna, Peru.

4. Consolidation of Vietnam YMCA

It is encouraging to note recent developments in the Vietnam YMCA. As it continues its social service programmes, this YMCA has also been able to successfully embark on having its own premises for its activities and office in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City. The construction of the building is scheduled for completion in early 2003. We congratulate them on this effort towards self-reliance. You may contact our office for more information on how to support this effort.

5. Flood Rehabilitation Work in Nepal

Following extensive damage to many villages in rural Nepal as a result of unprecedented floods in July/August 2002, the YMCA of Nepal responded by raising and providing emergency relief supplies of clothes, medicine, food and tents to 200 families in the Manahary River Basin. With the support from the appeal made to YMCAs by the Alliance, funds were raised from the YMCAs of Japan, Singapore and the World Alliance to assist in rebuilding houses in Botbary village and Sarikhet village, and the rehabilitation of a YMCA-built clean water supply system in the village of Baluwa. These projects are being carried out in collaboration with a committee of local village leaders and the local YMCAs of Hetauda and Kavre. We are yet to raise US$4,500 towards the commitment, so YMCA support in this endeavour would be greatly appreciated.

6. YMCA of Singapore Makes Special Contribution to Mark its Centenary

On 2 November, the YMCA of Singapore (Orchard Road) celebrated its Centenary attended by many international YMCA delegations, local dignitaries and its membership. Our Golden Anniversary Trust Fund was boosted by a special contribution of SGD $100,000 (approx. US$ 57,170) by the YMCA of Singapore, in addition to the US$100,000 already pledged by them. The contribution was received by Mr. Kan Tanikawa our President, from Col. (Rtd.) David Wong, President of the YMCA of Singapore during the Fraternity Dinner to welcome all overseas delegations at the Celebrations.

7. 16th General Assembly and Youth Forum, September 2003

Preparations for the 16th General Assembly to be held from 2-6 September 2003 in Singapore under the theme "Spirituality of Transformation for Just-Peace" are progressing well. Recently, meetings with the Host Committee and the Apollo Novotel where the Assembly will take place have been organised for detailed planning. Details of the Assembly will be sent out to National YMCAs soon.

The General Assembly, a time to express and experience our "oneness" in mission, will feature a keynote and several sub-theme presentations. There will also be "witness" rooms for sharing of on-going development and transformation work being carried out by YMCAs in the region. There will also be Focus Groups for initiating actions in solidarity with the suffering. The Quadrennial Council Meeting will also be held during the period, and there will be other social and cultural programmes. Prior to the Assembly, from 31 August-2 September 2003, the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCA's Youth Forum will bring many young people in the YMCA together, to search for meaningful YMCA responses to contemporary youth issues.

8. Financial Support for Programmes/Projects 2003

As in the past years, we will be able to support some programme actions of National and Local YMCAs in the next year. Applications for financial support to carry out National and Local Action Programmes (NLAP) on Youth, Gender and Empowerment of People are invited. Applications are also invited for the Y's Men International Time of Fast (TOF) support for programmes focused on "Building a Peaceful Future". Applications made in the prescribed format must be received at the Alliance Office by 1 February 2003, duly endorsed by the National Movement.

9. Position of New General Secretary : Application Closes 30 December

As announced in the Headlines, September, 2002, applications have been invited for the position of General Secretary of the Asia and Pacific Alliance with my taking up the responsibility of Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs. All applications should reach Mr. Kan Tanikawa, Chairperson of the Search Committee for the General Secretary, by 30 December 2002.

The 7 members of the Search Committee will short-list candidates who have applied. Short-listed candidates will be asked to attend an interview with the Search Committee on 11 and 12 March in Hong Kong. The Search Committee will then recommend a person for appointment by the Executive Committee which will meet in Hong Kong on 13-15 March 2003.

10. Announcement : Acting General Secretary

As announced earlier, Mr. Yip Kok Choong, Executive Secretary for Programmes of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs, will be the Acting General Secretary of the Alliance with effect from 1 January 2003, until the new General Secretary assumes the position, at the latest by June 2003.

11. Up-coming Meetings

The Search Committee for the General Secretary of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs will meet on 11-12 March 2003, in Hong Kong to interview short-listed candidates for the position.

The Executive Committee and Related Meetings will be held on 13-15 March 2003 at the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong.

The National General Secretaries' Meeting will be on 16 March 2003, in Hong Kong.

12. Year-end Greetings and Farewell

It is time for me to move again. My period in Hong Kong as General Secretary of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs since January 1996 has been a very meaningful experience for me as well as my family. We received so much care, concern and support in pursuing the work of the Alliance. I am also very happy to see the new developments in this region, particularly in terms of YMCAs taking up new programmes on social issues, consolidation and extension of YMCAs, leadership development and self-reliance. But, much is left to be done, and I am confident that YMCAs in this region will grow from strength to strength to pursue the mission of the YMCA in building a society characterised by justice, love and peace.

I take this opportunity to thank the President of the Alliance, Mr. Kan Tanikawa, the Officers, the Executive Committee Members, the National General Secretaries and all colleagues and friends who have given so much of their ideas, time, energy, and finances in making the Alliance what it is today.

May God bless each and everyone of you working for a better world. Wishing you a very happy New Year!

  Bart Shaha
  General Secretary
  Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs
  30 December 2002

Mr. Kan Tanikawa, President, Sends Letter of Appreciation

Mr. Kan Tanikawa, President of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs has requested us to share the following letter which we received from him recently.

16 December 2002

Mr. Bart Shaha
Secretary General
World Alliance of YMCAs

Dear Bart,

Greetings to you and Emily as you prepare to leave the shores of Asia and Pacific for Geneva, Switzerland, after giving exemplary and visionary leadership to the region and the Movement as the General Secretary of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs.

As Dr. M.D. David, the author of "A Symbol of Solidarity", the history of the Asia Alliance of YMCAs (published in 1998), writes, you "are one of the rare finds in the YMCA family". And, we have been privileged to have God place you in leadership in our midst for the past seven years. We have witnessed and experienced the commitment and dedication, enthusiasm and dynamism, and, the sense of Spirituality and Mission, that you have demonstrated and given to the region.

Your contribution to the Vision and the Mission of the YMCA in the region is evident in the far-reaching impact of the work that has taken place during your tenure as our General Secretary. Your clear leadership style has also contributed not only to the creating of a strong sense of self-reliance within the region, but also its manifestation through the successful establishment of the Golden Anniversary Trust Fund with other key lay leaders of the Alliance.

Personally, working with you as the President of the Alliance since 1999, has indeed been a rewarding and enjoyable time. We thank you, Bart, for sharing your life with us!

We pray for God's guidance, wisdom and strength to go with you as you move to share your leadership at the World Alliance. May God's richest blessings go with you, Emily, Sangita and Suchinta. The Good Lord BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU ALL.

With warm regards,

Kan Tanikawa
Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs




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A Time for Prayer...