Alongside my role as Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers, I am also Chairman of the International Christian Maritime Association. ICMA is the organisation which draws together 27 maritime missions across the world. Some are large, and some are small – perhaps even single centre operations. All are of great value. Between them, they represent most of the front-line maritime welfare work around the world. 2019 is the 50th anniversary of ICMA, and I write this article from our 11th World Conference being held in Taiwan. The Mission to Seafarers is proud to have been amongst those who came together to originally found the organisation in 1969. We have remained deeply committed to it since then. You can watch my opening comments at the conference here.
We have a team here of almost 30 to share in the celebration, worship, networking, relationship-building, seminars and training. In the “bad old days” before 1969 (bad old days as far as partnership went anyway) many maritime missions worked in the same ports, often with different buildings, perhaps in overt competition, rarely coordinating their work and sometimes not even speaking to each other. ICMA successfully promoted ecumenical co-operation, encouraging strong partnerships, leading on providing shared training opportunities, providing a platform for networking and for speaking with a common voice. This included the development of the proactive ICMA teams at the International Labour Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation. In this latter, Ken Peters from MtS was a huge influence and Ben Bailey, our current Director of Advocacy, now acts as Chairman of the ICMA IMO team. Partnership and ecumenical working always needs fresh energy. Personalities change, an unhealthy spirit of completion can be destructive and, yes, theological difference can still cause misunderstanding and division.
ICMA’s work is needed as much as ever and, both as Secretary General of MtS and as Chairman of ICMA, I am absolutely delighted with current levels of progress and energy in ICMA, under the dynamic leadership of Jason Zuidema. This is good for everybody and is certainly good for seafarers, fishers and their families. It makes the best use of resources and provides a cooperative response to need. Jesus prays that “we may all be one”. ICMA tries to put that into practical action. I am inspired to see so much shared passion for the well-being of those we all serve on show in Taiwan. It is fantastic. At MtS we remain deeply committed to partnership working and to the work of ICMA, As I said in my address we are “so much better together”.