Asia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Education

    Education for social change

    Project Number: 200.1010

    In Asia, pastors are important actors on the path to more peace and justice. They are trusted figures who often enjoy more recognition in the communities than representatives of the state. The quality of their education and training is therefore the focus of this project. Teaching and practice at church educational institutions should prepare the prospective pastors to deal with the challenges of their grassroots communities - such as land grabbing, discrimination against minorities and restrictions on the free practice of religion.

    Background information

    The right to practice one's religion freely is restricted for ethnic and religious minorities in parts of Indonesia, which leads to conflicts in everyday life. In Malaysia, Islam enjoys political priority as the state religion, although the society is religiously and ethnically heterogeneous. In the project area in Sabah, the indigenous Christian minority feels disadvantaged. In both countries, political expediency and a lack of the rule of law prevent the disadvantaged from getting their rights. In Hong Kong, the PRC has massively restricted democratic rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of choice in recent years. Countless democracy activists and critical publicists have been physically threatened and imprisoned. State control over all aspects of life, including church work, is steadily increasing and has led to an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship.

    The main churches and church-related associations in Indonesia propagate a contextual theology (or transformational or liberation theology): They emphasize the challenges of the here and now as opposed to promises of the hereafter, which ignores current burning issues in society. All of Mission 21's partner organizations are involved in transformative processes that raise awareness of current social realities, develop new contextual theological perspectives, and call for action in their communities. Many of today's so-called "agents of change," including many women, are former beneficiaries of Mission 21's program work and have since assumed leadership positions in churches and church-related associations. Theologically trained women are in a position to develop new perspectives for gender-responsive church policies and new theological curricula that address burning but long overlooked problems in society. Contextual theology provides the basis for interfaith dialogue and concrete, practical collaboration across religious boundaries to address challenges together.

    Statements from participants confirm that a sustainable discussion within church and society - stimulated by seminars and lectures on specific burning issues such as climate change, societal violence and trauma, gender roles and power relations, tradition and LGBQTI+, ecclesiology, or interreligious relations and freedom of expression - still requires further efforts that encompass the levels of discourse, teaching and practice. These issues continue to be contentious in society and therefore potentially conflictual. Theological education, in the sense of educating future social leaders, can play an important role in this regard.

    Project goals

    Grassroots communities and groups in civil society are strengthened to be able to shape their lives in a self-determined and independent way and to actively contribute to social processes. The church and other civil society contact persons have a key function in this: By teaching a contextual theology that reflects current social and ecological challenges and relates them to practice, the students and future pastors are enabled to more effectively enter pressing social problems.

    • Engaging church leaders, students of theological subjects and lay people in critical reflection on issues of faith and society on an ecumenical basis and empowering them to be agents of change for justice, peace, integrity of creation and diversity.
    • Access to education and hands-on experiences for marginalized and vulnerable groups to gain knowledge, skills, and confidence
    • Pastoral care for marginalized and vulnerable persons.
    • Promote the advancement of theological curricula and church doctrine.
    • Promoting short- and long-term encounters and learning exchanges
    • Support research on contextual theological issues and evidence of program outcomes.

    Target group

    The students as well as the leaders and teachers of theological training institutes are in focus. The students, as future pastors or otherwise active persons, will later become important "agents of change" and leaders in church and society who work for peace, social justice and the integrity of creation in their environment. The attitude they are taught in their studies has a decisive influence on the impact of church and society development programs. In this way, the training centers, the theological associations and the publishing house make a concrete contribution to a society based on solidarity and peace.


    • Long-time international collaborators Tobias Brandner (CUHK) and Daniel Gloor (STS) from Switzerland, as well as the Indonesian Elizabeth Mesdila (LS-PCS), are important intercultural bridge builders as lecturers in theology and broaden the horizons of students as well as interested persons in Switzerland.
    • Promoting pastoral care services for marginalized and vulnerable people, including prison chaplaincy by Tobias Brandner in Hong Kong, where his clients include well-known actors in the democracy movement
    • Develop interdisciplinary and practical theological education programs incorporating contextual social science methods to address current challenges facing the church, such as social diaconal responsibility, politicization of religion, democracy in the age of postmodernism, and public theology.
    • Provide scholarships for theological education programs to prepare students, especially women, from disadvantaged backgrounds, for their role as "agents of change" in society
    • Educational activities for the students' partners, who will also traditionally play an important role in community outreach later in life
    • Co-funding of salaries of lecturers from marginalized and vulnerable social groups.
    • Continuing education measures for teaching staff, including training on the "pastoral circle" and interreligious cooperation.
    • Feminist-theological seminars for the empowerment of women in leadership positions in church and society
    • Summer schools and study trips
    • Promoting publications and equipping libraries on contextual theological topics, including feminist theology.
    • Scholarship fund for targeted research assignments

    Project progress

    The important associations PERSETIA and PERUATI and the publishing house Gunung Mulia propagate with their events and publications the contextualization of theology, which has now become "mainstream" in academic discourse in Indonesia. Mission 21 and its partners have contributed to this success, as well as to the targeted promotion of women and feminist theology. At the CPCE theological college in South Kalimantan, for example, contextualization has entered teaching and research, not as a subject but as a working principle. The younger pastors trained in this way, with the support of their churches, are also increasingly involved in burning social problems in their congregations and work together interreligiously in their congregations with members of other religious communities. Some of these "agents of change" have now also risen to leadership positions in their churches or church-related institutes and associations.

    At the Luther Seminar of the partner church PCS in Sabah, a valuable contribution was achieved through the South-South exchange of the theologian Elizabeth Mesdila from Indonesia. The deepening of cross-regional program work in the area of contextual theology should also help to raise awareness of the different and disadvantaged situation of Christians in Malaysia compared to those in Indonesia. The STS in Malaysia has steadily expanded and professionalized its training program - accompanied by social initiatives such as children's and residential homes, income support for women, addiction prevention and interreligious dialogue. The focus of project cooperation is on further training for students and teachers from marginalized social groups, such as ethnic minorities. The continuous deepening of Dr. Daniel Gloor's knowledge in the field of Arabic and Islam made it possible for him, in the difficult environment in Malaysia for Christians, to expertly deepen the treatment of Islam in his teaching. Being able to openly discuss fundamental issues is essential for students in the Islamic context of Malaysia. The Corona pandemic has been particularly challenging for Malaysian partner institutions in maintaining teaching opportunities for students from remote regions.

    In Hong Kong, Divinity School students have been very active in the democracy movement in recent years. As repression against free and critical thinkers has increased significantly, a progressive educational institution like Divinity School is all the more important. The Divinity School is committed to free speech and expression and to standing up for justice.

    Project images

    Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong

    • around 295 million people live in Indonesia and Malaysia
    • Around 29 million are Christians
    • around 84% are Muslim

    Project sum 2024

    CHF 322'840


    Jacqueline Brunner

    Responsible church partnerships;
    Responsible legacies and bequests

    Tel. 061 260 23 37
    ► E-mail

    Mathias Waldmeyer

    Team leader and program manager Asia
    Tel: +41 (0)61 260 22 63
    ► E-mail

    Hope thanks to your support

    Mission 21
    Protestant Mission Basel

    PO Box 270
    Missionsstrasse 21
    4009 Basel, Switzerland
    Tel.: +41 (0)61 260 21 20

    Donation account Switzerland:
    IBAN: CH58 0900 0000 4072 6233 2
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    Donation account Germany:
    Savings Bank Lörrach-Rheinfelden
    Swift BIC: SKLODE66
    BLZ: 683 500 48
    IBAN: DE39 6835 0048 0001 0323 33
    Account No. : 1032333

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