World Mission hosts 40 overseas partners at the General Assembly

During the General Assembly World Mission is hosting 40 overseas visitors from partner churches around the world. Four of the visitors spoke to us about some of the challenges they face in their home countries.

Rev Dr Cheon Min Heui from the Korean Republic

Rev Dr Cheon Min Heui
Rev Dr Cheon Min Heui

Rev Dr Cheon Min Heui is the executive secretary for overseas partnerships with the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea. "We are progressive and we work for social justice and on ecological issues," she says. "We try to apply our faith in our daily life."

Dr Cheon said the central issue for people in the Republic is the longstanding tension between North Korea and South Korea. Surrounded by superpowers --China, the United States, Russia and Japan all have interests in the peninsula --North and South Korea struggle to overcome tensions between their governments. "There are families who live on different sides of the border and cannot see each other," she says. "So every Monday we hold a candlelight prayer service where we pray for peace and reunification."

Dr Cheon says the Church of Scotland has been able to play an important role since it can work on both sides of the divide. "That's very important to us because when we are disconnected we misunderstand each other but when we meet together we can talk and come to a compromise. I think the important thing is the two countries need to meet together and talk."

Churches in the Republic of Korea have launched a campaign calling for a negotiated peace treaty with North Korea to replace the armistice that was reached in 1953. The Presbyterian Church also works to help migrant workers, reaching out to pregnant women and offering childcare support.

Rev Marlin Lomi from Sumba, Indonesia

Rev Marlin Lomi
Rev Marlin Lomi

Rev Marlin Lomi, from Sumba in Indonesia spoke to us through her interpreter Mrs Raing McCullagh. Climate change is the most pressing problem for people in Sumba, she says.

Sumba has two seasons, a rainy season and a dry season. Previously both seasons would last for around 6 months each, but since the climate began to change, Sumba has become drier and the rainy season has become shorter.

"Most people are farmers so they depend on the rains," Mrs Lomi said. "The people depend on rice and corn to live but they can't plant if there is no rain. If there is no rain there is no food."

Mrs Lomi said climate change is creating a food emergency for the people of Sumba. They are cutting trees and burning forest as they hunt for a type of cassava root to eat.

Her greatest fear, she said is that widespread hunger will cause a total breakdown of her society and the young people will leave to find a place where they can survive more easily. The Church of Scotland has helped by supplying emergency food for 3,000 people, but Mrs Lomi would like to see a longer term project to help Sumba survive.

"We have asked the General Assembly to pray for us," she said.

"We are trying to learn from other places how to manage and plant rice. We are trying to plant a lot of trees. Our faith says we must pray, but we need to work too. We need to work and pray."

Mr Durga Upadhyay from Kathmandu, Nepal

Mr Durga Upadhyay
Mr Durga Upadhyay

Mr Durga Upadhyay, from Kathmandu, Nepal, works for the United Mission to Nepal as an advisor on climate change matters. He has been attending this year's General Assembly to report on progress since last year's devastating earthquake.

It has been a challenging time, he said, as environmental concerns have fallen behind the pressing need to rebuild. "The earthquake has been a massive obstacle, financially and logistically, but this gives us the chance to build environmentally friendly houses. It's a clean slate."

Mr Upadhyay also provides environmental advice to World Mission's 'Let Us Build A House' programme, that challenges congregations to raise £500 to rebuild homes in Nepal.

Nepal has set targets to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, with hopes that by 2025 10,000 megawatts of electricity will be produced through river-power. There are also plans to phase out 'load shedding' where areas only receive electricity at certain times which is considered to be highly inefficient.

He says his visit to this year's General Assembly has made an impact.

"For me it has been an opportunity to learn. I've found the General Assembly very systematic and ordered. It's very open and democratic; dissent is met with consensus."

Rev Imad Moussa Zoorob from Beirut, Lebanon

Rev Imad Moussa Zoorob
Rev Imad Moussa Zoorob

Rev Imad Moussa Zoorob from Beirut Lebanon is the vicar of All Saints Church in Beirut, in the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem., as well as the director of St Luke's, a centre for children with developmental challenges.

"We don't want to focus on our difference on whether we are Muslim, Druze or Christian, whether we are Sunni or Shiite", he says "It is a blessing that we have diversity and that we are living as one, but now we are concerned it may again become an issue."

For 14 years, as Mr Zoorob was growing up, warring factions were fighting for control of Beirut. His family often went without food or had to queue for 5-6 hours to get something to eat. They spent many nights huddling together in an underground shelter with no electricity, as bombs fell around them.

"Because of this I feel my life is behind me," he says. "Now I worry about my two children because I want them to have a better life and to be able to live decently. "We don't want castles; we just want the best for our children."

A country of 4.5 million, Lebanon is now under pressure to integrate between 1.5 to 2 million refugees from Syria. The Church of Scotland is working in Lebanon to help feed and educate Syrian refugees through partners in the Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.

However, in a country with only a small group of rich people and where the large majority of citizens are poor, the challenge is immense.

"Politicians say this is a very serious problem," Mr Zoorob says, "But what is most terrifying is that we believe that in our midst we have up to 50,000 people affiliated with Daesh (Islamic State). They are armed and dangerous and we fear they could destroy our country."