We concluded our two days international seminar Church – State – Economy held in Manado with our Asian Partners of EKHN from India, Korea and Indonesia.
What can Christians do within Church, State and Economy? How close should Church and State work together? What is the right relationship between State and Church? Although we are coming from quite different cultural backgrounds and quite different political situations in India, Indonesia, Korea, and Germany we could agree on some common understandings in the relationship between Church, State and Economy.
In the opening bible study on the first day Volker Jung referred to Mark 12:13-17 (Jesus answering to the Pharisees “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”) and chapter 13 Verses 1-7 in the letter of Paul to the Romans (“Pay to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”) The biblical texts show that Christians recognize state order and economic order. “Christians do not live in a separate world. However, the state and the economy are limited to their functions,” he concluded his bible study.
As the first keynote speaker Matthias Blöser (Center for social responsibility of EKHN, Germany) introduced the more than 60 participants to the development of the relationship between Church and State in the history of Germany and about the present challenges of our democracy because of nationalism, right wing movements and racism in the midst of our society. He concluded his presentation: “Democratic Forces and all people of good will, including Churches, need to support and strengthen a democratic State with fundamental rights like freedom of belief and the right to a dignified life.” As Christians we should be engaged in political debates on core issues of our faith and mission.
Steven O. E. Kandouw, the Vice Governor of North-Sulawesi, opened his keynote by formulating a consensus: “We all agree that a good relationship always based on strong commitments of the leaders of the church and state to create Peace and Prosperity to the society and congregation.” In this relationship the role of the church is to be the “spiritual arm” of the state. In Indonesia and for the Indonesian people pluralism is the basic essence. You can find it in the constitution as “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” – the meaning is Unity in Diversity. The dominant socio-cultural values in the Minahasa is the respect for differences in ethnicity, religion, tribe, attitudes, opinions, and actions of others who are considered different: “humans must be able to humanize others.” So, he demanded a close working together of Church and State in economic and social programs and human resources development. And he concluded: “If you don’t involve the good people in politics the bad people only will be involved.”
Krise Gosal from the National Council of Churches in Indonesia introduced us in her keynote to the current issues and challenges faced by the Churches in Indonesia: nationalism, the ecological crisis, digitalization and the unity of the churches. The respond of the National council of churches is to dialogue on these issues with leaders of all religions, the government and with all people of good will to keep peace and harmony in the local communities and the whole of the society. They are engaged in development programs and developed an “Eco-Friendly-Church” program.
On the second day the delegates from our Indian, Indonesian, and Korean partnerchurches spoke about their challenges. In India, the Hindu-Fundamentalism and the present government denies the rights of the other religious communities to be part of the Indian history by introducing their narrative in schoolbooks and the educational system. The caste system is still the religiously sanctioned four-fold, hierarchy which determines one’s social status and occupation according to the social group they were born into. So the Dalits – the Outcasts – are still excluded from economical grow and political power. Churches respond strengthening the education and with soci-economic and political empowerment programs (microcredit programs, skill development, lobbying and advocacy for human rights and awareness building on rights and entitlements). “Being the voice of the voiceless” summarized Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, Bishop of the Diocese of Amritsar, the task of the Churches.
Ephorus Purba from the Simalungun Batak Church in North Sumatra spoke about the necessity to implement economy as a subject in theological education to prepare pastors and congregations to respond to the economic developments and challenges in their respected places.
According to Rev. Kang, Gwangju Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the present situation in Korea is comparable to Germany: secularization, individualism and the economic crisis lead to people leaving religious communities. This also effects the Christian communities. As a respond to that crisis some congregations try to develop a social ministry and to be more involved in the daily struggles of the people. Concepts of an “eco-village” and to slow down life are developed.
In his closing statement Church President Volker Jung summarized:
„The Consultation broadens the horizon. We learn from each other when we perceive in which political and economic relationships we live. In doing so, we see that we as Christians are deeply connected with this world (… living in this world and not outside of it). This means we have responsibility for this world. We accept this responsibility because it is deeply rooted in our faith. And in doing so, we open our eyes to the fact that we are united in Christ and through him with all humanity. The answer to our humanity questions is not nationalism, but community and cooperation. In this we want to strengthen ourselves in our churches and communities.“