Board of Overseas Affairs
The Board of Overseas Affairs has its origins in ICC’s Standing Committee on World Mission, which first met in January 1974. Developments in China at that time were an important factor in bringing representatives of the member churches of ICC together. In its early years there was a consistent attempt to educate the Irish churches about developments there and exchanges of church delegates between China and Ireland took place in the early 1980’s. The sharing of resources, joint action overseas, the hosting of overseas church leaders and the education of young people were constant items on the agenda of the committee.
When the work of the ICC was reorganised in 1979, a Board of Overseas Affairs was established with a World Mission Committee continuing as one of its constituent parts.
The Board was given responsibility for
bringing a Christian judgement to bear on international affairs
helping in the education process in Ireland regarding international affairs
co–ordinating concern and action for World Mission
stimulating and maintaining contact with churches outside Great Britain and Ireland
working with agencies involved in overseas development, especially Christian Aid
The Board meets three times each year.
Currently it carries out its work under three headings
Overseas Aid and Development.
Christian Aid reports on its work and the member churches share information about the work of their denomination in this area. This is usually an information sharing exercise, although occasionally there may be a decision to make a public statement or encourage some church–wide action.
World Mission and Evangelism Committee.
This Committee brings together Overseas Mission secretaries from the member denominations. It is largely an information sharing committee. It organises, in co–operation with the Irish Missionary Union, an annual study day. Recent topics have included “New ways of sending, new ways of receiving in mission”; “Inter–faith dialogue and encounter – How do Christians dialogue and work with others?”
International Affairs and Relations.
Bringing a Christian comment to bear on international affairs has been a focus of the Board. This has been largely carried out by having representatives attend various groups meeting under the auspices of the Churches Together in Britain & Ireland (CTBI). There has been a particular interest in the Near and Middle East, Sudan, and Sri Lanka but members are free to raise concern about any international issue. Reports are tabled at each meeting on the situation regarding refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland for information purposes only.
For example, the Board has organised public meetings for Bishop Riah (Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem), Prof. Piet Meiring from Johannesburg (South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission), Paul Riordan from Lisburn, who had taken part in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel and Munther Isaac, Dean of Bethlehem Bible College and the director of the ‘Christ at the checkpoint conference’ was invited to address the Board.
Written support was given to a campaign on dis–investment by the Irish Government’s National Pension Reserve Fund from companies involved with the Government of Sudan.
The Board actively seeks to respond quickly to situations falling within its remit. It is opportunistic in terms of seeking to offer significant Church leaders visiting Ireland a platform to engage with Irish Christians.