Member institutions of the Association of Christian Universities and College in Asia (ACUCA) found a way to unite during Christmas time despite the COVID-19 pandemic through its first virtual fellowship, hosted by Silliman University (SU) last December 23, 2020.
With the theme “Hope and Unity in this Time of Pandemic,” ACUCA members institutions from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Myanmar, Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand joined together in the online event through a video which was live-streamed on the ACUCA website and Facebook page.
The event included a scripture reading and reflection, and featured Christmas greetings and messages from heads of member institutions; messages from students; performances, and talent offerings.
The event opened with Dr. Betty Cernol McCann, SU president and incumbent ACUCA president, narrating a brief history of ACUCA and its establishment, followed by the lighting of the advent candles and Christmas candle at the SU Church, led by Rev. Wella H. de Rosas, SU minister for students and campus chaplaincy.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is my prayer and wish that all the member-institutions will maintain and strengthen their Christian identity [and] see to it that the relevance of our educational programs will be in line with 21st-century education,” said McCann in her opening message.
McCann also said in her Christmas message as the ACUCA president that as Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in an unprecedented time, the focus must be on Christ as their “Wonderful Counselor, Omnipresent Protector, and Wondrous Savior.”
“Let us actively seek and claim the promise of hope, peace, joy, and love in our lives no matter the situation we find ourselves in, for unto us, the child Jesus Christ is born,” she added.
ACUCA chose to highlight Psalm 95 for the scripture reading and reflection during the event.
Dr. Neil Semuel Rupidara, president of Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana and ACUCA executive committee member, delivered the scripture reflection.
“The king of Israel from Psalm 95…invite us all to come and sing out loud with music, with joy, to give our sincere thanks to God for guiding us through all the difficulties and pain…It is only God who has allowed us now to stand firm against the pandemic, as what He had done in the life of the ancestors of Israel as they went around in the wilderness,” said Rupidara.
Rupidara emphasized God’s consistent character in any situation.
“Like the Israelites, we are also on our way back home to God…As we go through temptations in our lives, we are warned not to harden our hearts as what the Israelites did at Meribah and Massah. God knows us and our situations so well…There is no single darkness and height in the present world that can hold His mighty hand back from reaching and saving us, including the darkness of today’s COVID-19 pandemic,” Rupidara said.
Rupidara reminded fellow Christians that even with the pandemic, there are still reasons to be thankful.
“As we are celebrating Christmas in this time of the pandemic, we may not be able to do so as joyous as we used to because of our situation and empathy to the pain and sorrow around us, but let our hearts sing in joy to express our sincere joy because (what) God has done for us is so wonderful. We certainly know that He has never left us alone,” said Rupidara.
Messages of Hope
“This Christmas greeting is more meaningful as a way to express our love and concern to each other, as God has loved us through His incarnation,” said Dr. Fr. Philipus Tule of Universitas Katolik Widya Mandira in Indonesia, as one of the leaders who delivered a Christmas message during the event.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fr. Roberto Yap of the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines said in his message: “Christmas 2020 symbolizes more than just the birth of Jesus. It also represents a rebirth, a renewal of our hearts, minds, and spirit as we let go of a tumultuous year and embrace the promise of a new one. As we celebrate the miracle and blessing of our Lord’s birth, may we all look at the image of the pure, innocent child, asleep in the manger, and see hope.”
Other leaders of ACUCA member institutions who shared their Christmas messages and messages of hope during the event are the following: Dr. Augustine Chuan Yi Tang of Providence University (Taiwan); Prof. Yoshiaki Terumichi of Sophia University (Japan); Dr. Christina Singh of Lady Doak College (India); Prof. Shoichiro Iwakiri of International Christian University (Japan); Dr. Mangadar Situmorang of Universitas Katolik Parahyangan (Indonesia); Dr. Mei-Hua Chen of Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages (Taiwan); Dr. Rev. Samuel Ngun Ling of Myanmar Institute of Theology (Myanmar); Dr. Benjamin Turgano of Wesleyan University (Philippines); Prof. Dr. Djwantoro Hardjito of Petra Christian University (Indonesia); Prof. Roland T. Chin of Hong Kong Baptist University (Hong Kong), as the ACUCA treasurer; Dr. Tomoko Ueki of Doshisha University (Japan); and Dr. Kwang-Sup Lee of Hannam University (Korea), as the ACUCA vice president.
ACUCA Executive Committee members Dr. Sr. Anne Therese Falkenstein of Providence University and Dr. Glen Chatelier of Assumption University of Thailand, as well as ACUCA Secretary-General and SU Economics Department chair Dr. Wilma Milo Tejero, offered prayers of restoration and hope during the event.
Students of Asia-Pacific International University (Thailand), Christ (Deemed to be University) (India), Chung Chi College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Trinity University of Asia (Philippines), Lady Doak College (India), and SU (Philippines) also shared their wishes for 2021.
Rev. Hung Tse, university chaplain of Hong Kong Baptist University, delivered the closing message.
Moreover, the event featured the Christmas tree lighting ceremony of Doshisha University in Japan and performances of the following groups from ACUCA member institutions: the Doshisha Student Choir; Wesleyan University-Philippines Chamber Singers; SU College of Performing and Visual Arts and SU Covenant Choir; Ateneo de Manila’s Bukas Palad Music Ministry, featuring the medical frontliners; Alec Zavier Marcial of Trinity University of Asia; UNPAR Chorale of Universitas Katolik Parahyangan; UNWIRA Choir of Universitas Katolik Widya Mandira of Indonesia; Dr. Augustine Chuan Yi Tang and Sabrina Chiang of Providence University; the Tunghai University Christian Church choir in Thailand; CHRIST University Students’ Choir; a dance group in Assumption University of Thailand; and a choir from Hannam University, Korea.
Representatives of ACUCA member-institutions also joined together in the performance of two ACUCA Unity Songs.
Tejero said ACUCA is currently preparing for the Joint Conference with the United Board.
“With the challenges brought about by the natural calamities and the current COVID-19 crisis, the ACUCA, which is currently led by Silliman University, aims to expand institutional partnership among 69 member institutions in Asia and maximize the opportunities it offers, given the unique capabilities and strength of each member institution,” Tejero added.