THE MALTA CONSULTATION
January 20th to 23rd 2004
132 people from 30 countries responded to our invitation to attend a 4-day ICC Consultation on “The Suffering Church”, held at the Coastline Hotel, Salina Bay in Malta. Those present came from the mainline protestant Churches, from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and from Pentecostal and Non-Denominational Churches all over the world. There were bishops, pastors and priests, theologians, and politicians, human rights workers, businessmen and women, and local church members from a variety of backgrounds. Most of the ICC Executive and many of the Advisory Council were among those who travelled to Malta.
The vision behind the Consultation was to continue the calling of ICC to work for Renewal in the Spirit, Unity in the body of Christ, and Evangelisation, by bringing together Christians from different traditions to share experiences, learn about what is really happening, and increase understanding of how we can help persecuted Christians around the world. To help us reach our goals we were fortunate to have a number of experts as main speakers, supported by the testimonies of some who had experienced persecution, and the practical contributions of a number of agencies working to bring relief and hep to the suffering church. A special theological track formed an important part of the Consultation, where over 30 theologians presented and discussed a number of papers of a variety of subjects linked to the theme of the Consultation.
The main speakers were Lord David Alton, a politician who works tirelessly for the human rights of persecuted Christians all over the world; Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, an expert on Islam who directs the Barnabas Fund; Abuna Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Melkite priest who has built a school for Moslem, Christian, Jewish and Druize pupils, and works for reconciliation in Palestine; Rev. Sam Yeghnazar, an Iranian pastor resident in England, who founded Elam Ministries to train pastors for Iran and to support Christians in that region; Fr. Prof. Vasile Mihoc, an Orthodox priest from Romania who is a leader in The Lord’s Army movement, persecuted during the communist era; Bishop Dr. Hilarion Alfeyev, who is the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the European Union; Rev. Don Brewin who heads up SOMA, ministering to Anglican churches all over the world; and Henry and Mario Cappello, who are working with churches in China.
The morning Bible studies were led by Professor Mel Robeck, Dr. Harold Hunter, and Rev. Johannes Fichtenbauer, and among those giving testimonies were Bishop James Leggett, James Mawdsley, Rev. David Haokip, Dr Chin K. Khai, and Rev. Rosemarie Claussen. The theological stream was co-ordinated by Dr. Harold Hunter and Professor Mel Robeck, and featured a number of eminent theologians. It is hoped to publish their papers very shortly. Our morning times of prayer and worship were led by Mark Nimo from Ghana, and in the evenings we were fortunate to have a number of Maltese worship groups ministering to us. Throughout the Consultation a groups of intercessors were at prayer in a small room specially put aside for the purpose, joining with our regular intercessors who were holding the whole event in prayer through the four days.
The general consensus was that this was an excellent and fruitful Consultation, which fulfilled its aim of raising awareness and increasing commitment to our brothers and sisters who live under persecution, and even martyrdom. There was a tremendous sense of joy and hope among the delegates present, particularly among those who are suffering or who have suffered for their faith. We recognised that while the suffering church needs our voices and our help, we have a tremendous amount to learn from them.