Rev. Rex Reyes at the 14th General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia in Indonesia. © WCC/Claus Grue

Rev. Rex Reyes at the 14th General Assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia in Indonesia. © WCC/Claus Grue


*By Claus Grue

When Rev. Rex Reyes leaves as Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) president of clergy after two general assemblies and one term as president, the organization loses a humble and very articulate man firmly rooted in the faith.

That does not mean he will cease to engage in ecumenical issues, which have been high on his agenda since he joined the ecumenical movement in 2000.

He stresses the word "movement" to underline that it is something active and ongoing, rather than something static. As he likes to say, it is a choice between becoming a movement instead of a monument.

In the future Rex Reyes will continue his efforts on a global scale at the World Council of Churches as a member of the Council’s Central Committee.

He also has a year left on his second term as general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

His fight for human rights and solidarity continues. In Asia he sees two areas of particular concern at the moment: Human rights and poverty.

Rights and poverty are serious issues and globalization has been painful. He discerns a lack of human rights and a continuous prevalence of impunity. While governments measure growth in terms of Gross domestic product (GDP), he says, churches should measure social and economic progress by biblical standards such as how many people are fed, have proper access to education, health care and water, and so forth. As churches we must stand together courageously and speak out loud and clear about the issues that matter in Asia. The CCA’s main task is to be prophetic, explains Reyes: only then will it count.

He sees a link between poverty and poor governance. When governments cease to be governments for the people, they eventually become marginalized by their own people. Reyes continuously returns to the perspective of the people, of those who suffer and need help.

Christian solidarity

Solidarity means sharing the pain. Isn't that what Christians are supposed to do? he asks. Survivors of a catastrophe, such as the earthquake in Nepal or the cyclone in the Philippines in 2013, are not just subject to aid and assistance; they have the right to assistance. Same thing applies to the boat people, who actually have become stateless in their own country of Burma, because they are not wanted there. Who would have thought that in 2015, there would still be boat people? The media should pay more attention to the plight of the poor and vulnerable.

Rev. Rex Reyes continues with another sad example of vulnerable people who have been marginalized: migrant workers, a reality which he labels as nothing but slavery.

Immigration is a right, he argues, “but if you are forced or lured to go abroad, then that is human trafficking. People are exported as cheap labour to other countries. You can’t call that anything other than slavery. In this case the churches’ role is a very complex issue, since there often is a family left behind in need of pastoral care,” Reyes explains.

The experience of many human rights advocates is to have been seen as communists, leftists, or at the worst enemies of the state, he continues.

That does not stop him and other advocates from enduring their tireless campaigns for solidarity with the poor and needy.

Another problem, Reyes adds, is that we keep talking about "the others" as if they weren't part of the household of God. We have to come to terms with that. Also, we must address the sense of helplessness that has spread throughout Asia. After all, the message of the Gospel is hope. If the church becomes flesh and dwells with the people, there is hope, Reyes concludes.

*Claus Grue is communication consultant for the World Council of Churches.

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