Maktaba-e-Anaveem Pakistan (MAP) – Peoples’ Forum for Contextual Theologies - organized 4-day Summer Theological Training Session (STTS) on “Leadership and Participation of Laity in the Church” from 25 to 28 June 2017 at Theological Institute of Laity, Sadhuke, Gujranwala.
The newly appointed Director, MAP - Mrs. Alishbah Javed Akhtar – welcomed the participants (MAP Coordinators and their Assistants) and highlighted objectives of the STTS. Earlier, the participants also welcomed the first ever female Director of MAP and offered her best wishes as well as their cooperation in promoting the cause of MAP. Mrs. Alishba told that MAP launched STTS in 1990 with an aim to train lay people in doing contextual theology enabling them for leadership and participation in the Church and society. She added that STTS also provided a common platform for MAP Coordinators and Assistant Coordinators to exchange views and experiences with other MAP groups coming from all over the country. She concluded that STTS would mainly focus on Theology and Spirituality of Laity, Role of Laity in the Church Ministries and lay participation in the church against the backdrop of the teachings of Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC).
During the ensuing sessions of STTS presentations were made on the following topics followed by groups’ workshops:
Fr. Bonnie Mendes, former Secretary, OHD Office of FABC shared views on “FABC and Theology of Laity”. He said FABC emphasized on Church of the Poor and laity was the integral part of the church and its ministries. He noted that like the Second Vatican Council, the FABC Theology of the Laity is based on a common matrix of the baptismal priesthood of all believers, common discipleship or following of Jesus based on the gospel and participation in the triple office of priest, prophet, and pastor in a triple dialogue with cultures, religions and the poor of Asia. The laity lives out this mission both in the Church and in the world, as per the Decree on the Laity "Apostolicam Actuositatem." He concluded that laity is 99% of the church, hence it should be more effective and fruitful in building up a participatory church in Pakistan.
While Fr. Bonnie Mendes elaborated FABC theology of laity, Mr. Yousaf Jalal Gill (Treasurer, MAP) gave an overview of theology of laity in general terms. Highlighting persecution of early Christians by the Roman Empire, he said that Christianity is based on martyrdom of the lay people. They suffered with oppression and physical torture. But they did not give up their faith in Jesus Christ and they were the role models for Christian minority in Pakistan today confronted with challenges of discrimination and poverty. He noted that men and women were the image of God and shared the salvation plan of God for humanity. He noted that today, laity needed to seriously think about its responsibilities in the Church and society as disciples of Jesus Christ. Until and unless, the laity remains unaware of its importance and significant role in the society and church, no positive change will ever come, he concluded. The talk followed by answer and question session.
Mr. Hamid Henry (General Secretary- MAP) made presentation on “FABC and Spirituality of Laity”. Referring to FABC documents, he said the spirituality of laity was “involvement spirituality”, bringing gospel values to the various dimensions of Christian life and embracing God’s plan for the whole creation. This spirituality, he said, manifested itself in: Communion, Solidarity, Compassion, Justice, Love, and Reconciliation with God the Father. He noted that within this one Christian spirituality of discipleship and participation in Jesus’ mission, a lay spirituality can be identified by its Secular character and Orientation to the world. Mr. Henry concluded that spirituality of laity was integrated with a life of authentic prayer, which is also a life of service and love, self-gift to others, a way of proclaiming the gospel and a means of collaborating with the Holy Spirit in furthering the mission of the Church. In the final analysis the spirituality of laity entails the duty to transform the Asian world in the spirit of the gospel.
Mrs. Noreen Haroon Gill, a lay theologian, spoke on “The Role of Laity in the Church Ministries“. She described the role of laity in detail by making multimedia presentation. She said the laity was the people of God. They have to be ambassador of God and bring justice in the society. The laity should promote Christian values love, forgiveness, truth, honesty, peace and self-sacrifice. She noted that laity as God’s chosen people had a very special and significant role in the Church’s mission. The laity has to enhance collaboration with the clergy, for jointly they could build up a participatory church. The presentation was followed by a group workshop. The groups wanted to know as to how the Pakistani laity could play a role in diverse ministries of local church. They also pointed out hurdles to be overcome in being effective in the Church ministries.
Dr. Farhana Anthony, a trained feminist theologian from the Presbyterian Church, made a presentation on “A Theology of Lay Leadership”. She explained theological aspects of leadership in a historical perspective. She said that a theology of lay leadership always led a leader to build the Kingdom of God. She observed that leadership was not an authority; rather it was continuing work for the Kingdom of God. She added that a leader should have a clear vision of ministry because without vision a leader can perish the people as the prophet said, where there is no vision people perish. “A good leader shares leadership with fellow human being just like Jesus Christ”, she concluded. She also conducted a workshop after her talk.
Mr. Hamid Henry explained secular theories of leadership i.e. Trait Theory of Leadership and Contingency Theory of Leadership. Apart from leadership theories, his talk included: Basic Traits of a Leader, Leadership Styles and Factors Affecting Leadership. In conclusion he linked these theories with leadership role of laity in the Church and society as Persuasive, Facilitative, Team, Cross Cultural, Transactional, Coaching and Transformational leaders.
On the sidelines of STTS, a special session was organized in which designated participants gave review on a book on Christology published by MAP under its project “Training in Theology: Read Theology – Do Theology”. The book consisted of three articles on Christology separately reviewed by Ms. Erum Pervez, Mr. Shamoun Gill and Mr. Riaz David – all bonafide MAP Coordinators and prospective lay thinkers and writers.
In the last session on “Evaluation and Suggestions”, MAP Coordinators presented performance reports of their respective local groups for the period from January to June 2017.
The certificates of participation were distributed by Mr. Hamid Henry (General Secretary – MAP), Mr. Joseph Nayyer (Chief Coordinator Punjab-KPK), Mr. Yousaf Gill (Chief Coordinator Sindh-Baluchistan), Mrs. Sajida Pervez (Chief Coordinator, Women Theological Forum - WTF) and Mrs. Alishbah Javed Akhtar (Director – MAP).
The event concluded with vote of thanks by Mrs. Alishbah Javed Akhtar and holy mass celebrated by Fr. Mushtaq Piara, life member of MAP.
78 men and women from different cities of Pakistan (Karachi, Hyderabad, Kotri, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur Miras, Sukkur, Loralai, Quetta, Attock, Lahore, Hafizabad, Jurian, Gujranwala, Farooqabad, Ghazi Minara, Sheikhupura, Harpoke and Sadhoke) participated in this four days training program.