Chiang Mai, THAILAND: Emerging leaders from 14 different Asian countries were encouraged this past January to consider more active roles for themselves and their church communities in areas labeled “public spheres” by distinguished speakers at this year’s Asia Emerging Leaders’ Summit (AELS), an annual gathering focused on providing emerging leaders opportunities to develop, engage and think towards the future.
Held in Chiang Mai on January 11th through 14th, AELS featured discussions on the church’s responsibility and possible roles in shaping public opinion and actively participating in political, social and business arenas. Talks were led by international experts and renowned scholars such as, among others, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies co-founder Canon Dr. Vinay Samuel, distinguished constitutional lawyer Dr. Philip Koh, Vice President for Compassion International’s Asia region Dr. Bambang Budijanto and the distinguished Rev. C. B. Samuel.
Summit speakers identified public areas in social life where individuals gather to discuss societal problems as public spheres and encouraged church leaders and young emerging leaders to actively participate in public discourse with a “Kingdom imagination” and a vision of a future instilled with Christ-centered and truth-based moral values.
During the four-day summit, lectures were given not only on what Christians should do in public spheres or why but also on how they may go about “mobilizing and preparing the next generation of leaders.” Participants were given opportunities to discuss issues relevant to their cultural context in small discussion groups after every talk with the summit speakers which proved to be very motivating. Participant Gift Kanthamanee (with an M.S. degree from Thailand) says it was “a thought provoking experience and a strong injection for inward-looking Christians, but that is precisely what we need!”
After hearing from all the speakers, participants spent the final day drafting action plans and goals to encourage the members of their communities and organizations to begin guiding public discourse and affecting change in public areas of influence where they have representation. Major outcomes of the summit were the commitments that participants made to begin or continue with an increased fervor of leadership in their spheres of influence, specifically in the area of anti-corruption movements and youth and child development. After the summit, participant Khareeza Zhi Wei Koh from Malaysia described it as “an enriching experience.” She says the summit was a great opportunity for her. “Not only did I get to broaden my view on the subject of the public sphere,” Ms. Koh explained, “but also got to meet many potential leaders from different countries.”
Menchit Wong, Director of Child Advocacy for Compassion Philippines, remarked how encouraged she was to see participating leaders develop actionable outcomes on the final day of the summit. She was moved by the “courage to confront issues” exhibited by this year’s attending leaders. “Ms. Wong said, “I’m just really inspired by their collective courage to raise awareness as well as plan, mobilize and prepare the next generation.”
The Asia Emerging Leaders’ Summit was hosted by Compassion Thailand in cooperation with the Asia Evangelical Association (AEA), International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation (INFEMIT), and a Christian think tank.