By Yeap Boo Yam
A total of 47 delegates from seven countries are gathered in Nagarkot, Nepal, for the SACYN Leadership Conference 2016 on the topic of disability, based on the theme “Accessible South Asia: Creative Responses for Mental Health and Differently Abled.”
The six-day gathering from July 1 is packed with worship sessions, personal devotions and private reflections, workshops and presentations by internationally renowned church leaders and subject matter experts on the differently abled and mental disorders, which are issues that cut across generations.
Among the key presentations were “Mental Health Issues: Tools for Serving South Asian Youths” by Dr T. Maniam of Malaysia and “Differently Abled” by John Samadhanam of India.
AsiaCMS and CMS UK are coordinating and supporting partners of the 14-year-old South Asia Christian Youth Network (SACYN), which groups India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Myanmar.
The SACYN 2016 theme was selected with an awareness that mental health issues are on the rise and their detrimental effects are evident both within the Church and in society.
They take a significant toll on people, starting with adverse impact on our psychological and spiritual well-being, relationship with others, and in the ministry and work context.
Over the last four years, SACYN has completed an Annual Leadership Training series for youth leaders on three themes: 1) Globalisation and Youth Cultures; 2) Asian Christian Identities; and 3) South Asian Diasporas.
A number of enterprising youth leaders have taken these thematic training programmes and cascaded them to national, diocesan and district levels.
SACYN coordinator Miranga Peiris said the feedback from the participants, who are trainers from different church backgrounds, has been very positive.
“What we learnt here we go back and apply in our home countries. It’s training the trainers concept,” said Miranga, who has been involved with SACYN for six years.
Miranga himself has had his leadership and training skills honed through SACYN, rising from just a delegate in 2010 to SACYN coordinator in 2014.
“I believe a lot of other people too have gone back to their home countries and started sharing this training programme,” he said.
On the conference theme, he said it was felt that the church should play an active role in reaching out to the differently abled and those with mental disorders.
“God can work through different people, not just the able bodied. It’s important that we care for them too,” he added.
The youth leaders need to take up this challenge to reach out to them, said Miranga, adding that accessibility here refers to both their physical and spiritual needs.
To inspire the conference participants, the organisers even staged a wheelchair dance by the differently abled at the opening ceremony, a performance Miranga described as marvellous.