Building Communities of Faith, Hope, and Love - Biblico-Theological Reflections

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Building Communities of Faith, Hope, and Love

Scripture text: 1 Cor 13:13

Rev. Dr. AHN Jae Woong

Chair, Board of Trustees

National Council of YMCAs of Korea

Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Chen Chin-Seng, President and Nam Boo Won, General Secretary of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs, for inviting me to share with you a biblical reflection on the theme of “Building Communities of Faith, Hope, and Love” at this August gathering of the APAY. I consider this as a great privilege to meet you all, and I hope that your active participation, lively discussion, solid articulation, favourable election, and valuable decisions that you will take would eventually bear good fruit through this assembly.

Personal Remarks

I personally have a great admiration for India as a nation, especially its people, cultures, religions, philosophy, democracy, science and technology. Indian civilization has influenced the entire global community. Indian religions have become major world religions. Indian philosophy is classical theory for academic comments. Above all, Indian people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and scores of others as well as many more eminent ecumenical leaders, whose names will make a long list, have been highly respected and adored by international community. Today, I am so glad to be in fellowship with you here in Chennai, India.

What is happening so far

We are experiencing severe human tragedies due to natural and human-made disasters that have taken so many places in our day-to-day lives. At the same time, we are facing many other barriers in our daily lives, such as racial and communal barriers, ideological and socio-political barriers, religio-cultural and gender barriers, war and military oppressive barriers that disturb our lives. Therefore, we have to find some ways and means how we can break these barriers, bearing in mind that transforming lives should be our utmost task through building communities of faith, hope, love, and peace at this juncture of history.

Andre Gide, once said that “God is available to us twenty-four hours a day.” It is true that God is not only available to us, but also in our midst at every moment of our lives. However, our problem is that we have no capacity for knowing God or loving God properly. We have no capacity for sharing God’s love with our neighbours. We have no capacity for demonstrating God’s care for other fellow creatures. Instead, we have a tendency to use violence in order to exploit other creatures by manipulating, by modifying, and by demolishing them. As a result, we are now facing so many negative problems in our daily lives.

Cultivate a culture of peace

We -the human race- will never come to an end with violent behaviours unless we cultivate a culture of peace in our lives. In order to cultivate a culture of peace, we have to admit that peace is a divine gift for all God’s people or for all human race. But it comes not in a ready state, but it is a process that carries a great price. The price is metanoia/conversion or repentance. Therefore, we ought to do is that metanoia, because:

- We are unable to properly articulate theological framework of peace

- We are unable to live as good neighbours

- We are unable to deliver good news to the poor

- We are unable to handle global climate crisis

- We are unable to work together as partners

Let us go through metanoia in order to love each other, to share with one another to make our community become truly humane: based on faith, hope, love, and peace.

What is the peace that is a divine gift? What is the peace we are called upon to make, keep or cultivate in our midst? I believe that peace is a condition of security, belonging, contentment, and fullness of life for all God’s people. Its includes offering and sustaining relationships to all and with all. Its includes constructive and purposeful activities and mutual services and encouragement to free undue stress and anxiety. Peace is a state of harmony, friendship, and reconciliation among the people or groups of people. We are here because we are casting our vision, mission, wisdom, hope, and commitment to building community of peace and well-being in this world.

Understanding culture

A conventional understanding of culture may be described as the total of the passed on ideas, beliefs, values, knowledge, which constitute the basis for social action. In order to understand culture clearly, let me quote from H. Richard Niebuhr’s book Christ and Culture (1951). According to Niebuhr, “the cultures are forever seeking to combine peace with prosperity, justice with order, freedom with welfare, truth with beauty, scientific truth with moral good, technical proficiency with practical wisdom, holiness with life, all these with all the rest.” After all, culture is the social heritage, which is received and transmitted from generation to generation. For a culture of peace to take roots, we have to raise our prophetic voice, genuinely approach people of other faiths, systematically coordinate with civic groups and enthusiastically involved in building community of peace and well-being in our lives. We are called to be partners in building community of peace with justice in our day-to-day life. In order to build a culture of peace or build communities of peace and well-being for all races, we have to meet or gather together as much as possible and encourage one another all the way through. This is our way of overcoming our weaknesses or our tendency of remaining as a silent majority. As long as we remain a silent majority, just/peace will never stay with us. Peace building ethos and peace-making pathos are utmost tasks for all of us. Moreover, moral values of freedom and accountability of the western society and the community solidarity and social order of the eastern society may be a solid ground for building community of peace and well-being in our time.

Good life

People in Asia, like people anywhere in the world, aspire for good and quality life. Good life is possible only if every human being has their day-to-day life based on well-being. Quality life is possible when basic livelihood, good health, good social relations, security and freedom are guaranteed.

Life is valuable and precious not only for an individual but also for the whole of God’s creation. Religious teaching and Christian life, therefore, become relevant for achieving people’s aspiration. Christianity teaches that humans and all beings in nature exist to help each other. All beings are connected and in a relationship to save each other. Only humans dream of ‘a good life only for me’. This is especially true in modern times when community values are declining and individualism is strengthening. Only when we live well together and think and act in a way that benefits each other will we achieve a good life both personally and society.

Today, we have gathered here for general assembly of the APAY to seek God’s wisdom for our common “Vision 2030” of fulfilling the ecumenical task or YMCA’s endeavor of good life for the people in the entire world.

Community Wellbeing

I observed that “Vision 2030” is carefully crafted document of YMCA. The goals and strategies to deal with the global crisis and problems are well-organized, and four areas of influence are organized in a way that can be integrated among them and with UN SDGs. However, on the part of “Community Wellbeing” is too much confined with YMCA’s internal consumption. Therefore, we better to explore our YMCA priority concerns to local community, faith community, academic community, and human community for the betterment of people’s aspiration. When YMCA is connected to society and studies in languages of various sectors of our society and prays for God’s good, it will have the power to cultivate a culture of peace and change our society with the help of the Holy Spirit.

At this point, I would like to highlight Gustavo Gutierrez’s Liberation Theology. I find his theological analogy on “we drink from our own wells” is very inspired one. Regardless of all the members of community or any passengers of that particular community are freely drinking from the same wells. Drinking of the community wells are given to not only members of community but also all of visitors including cattle as well. There is no monopoly of community wells by particular circles of people. Therefore, YMCA needs to provide the Oasis for all the living creatures. YMCA have to preserve reservoirs for all the community members so as to offer enough source of energy for human community.

As far as “community wellbeing” is concerned, YMCA need to directly involve in building communities of faith, hope, love, and peace. “Vision 2030” of YMCA should articulate for relevant mission tasks related to local community, faith community, academic community, and human community at large. In order to promote community wellbeing, we have to open our hearts and minds for successful achievements of YMCA’s “Vision 2030” in the years to come.

May it be so, indeed!


This Biblical reflection was delivered at the 21st General Assembly of Asia & Pacific Alliance of YMCAs in Chennai, India, from September 15-20, 2023.