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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

SABAH-HEILBRONN ECUMENICAL PARTNERSHIP (SHEP) ~ EXCHANGE PROGRAM

BY DALIUSLL, SOCCOM SANDAKAN
Sandakan: A delegation of 12 guests from Germany paid a visit to St. Mary's Cathedral, Sandakan on 15th –18th August 2014 under the banner of Sabah-Heilbronn Ecumenical Partnership (SHEP). The guests were on a 3-week exchange program to Sabah.

This partnership is an ecumenical relationship of Churches in Sabah (Catholic Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Catholic Dioceses of Keningau and Sandakan, Sabah Basel Council of Churches Malaysia (BCCM) and the Protestant Churches of Sabah (PCS)) and the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Heilbronn, Germany. 

The partnership aims at promoting awareness and better understanding of ecumenism, ecumenical sharing of resources and enhancing mission and theological education for both countries. One of the main activities is the biennial exchange visit of participating Churches in Sabah and Heilbronn. 
Sharing by members of the local churches and the German delegates

Raymond Wong, who represented the Catholic Diocese of Sandakan to Heilbronn in 2012 exchange program coordinated the event. The 12 delegates from Germany (6 Catholics and 6 Lutherans) were hosted to a dinner reception at one of the leading restaurant in Sandakan on 15th August, the day of their arrival. Also in attendance were Bishop Julius Dusin Gitom, Frs. Thomas Makajil and Sunny Chung, the Catholic host families, Reverends and Pastors and guests of the BCCM and PCS.

In his welcoming remark, Bishop Julius recounted the partnership which he was directly involved in 1990 – 1995. The Catholic was then represented by only one diocese, the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu. He recalled how the partnership has evolved over the years and the benefits experienced by participating churches in   relation to ecumenical issues with the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Basel, PCS and Catholic Churches in Sabah. 

The prelate thanked the volunteers from the participating Churches in arranging the welcoming dinner and the host families for accommodating the German guests in their homes.  He briefed the guests that the relationship among the various denominations in Sabah is cordial and well-grounded. He encouraged them to take the opportunity to learn and participate in the liturgy of the churches in Sandakan. Apart from spiritual activities, he also encouraged them to explore and discover Sandakan by visiting the many interesting places around town.
The dialogue session
One of the interactive program, was an open dialogue between the participating Churches in Sandakan and the guests, themed “Lay people involvement in the Church”, held in the Cathedral's Conference Room on 16th August 2014. The dialogue was interesting as both parties learnt of the strengths and weaknesses of the involvement of the laity in the Church in Germany and in Sabah.  The delegation left for the Diocese of Keningau on 19th August 2014.

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