Rev. Dr Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, delegate from the Toraja Church, was part of 5 September’s thematic plenary focusing on the intersection of human dignity and justice through the lens of gender, disability, race, and youth.
“Many of our churches are both complicit and complainant,” said Adele Halliday, assembly guest from the United Church of Canada and moderator for the WCC Advisory Group on Overcoming Racism, Discrimination, and Xenophobia.
Halliday challenged churches to “authentically and faithfully” wrestle with the impact of intergenerational trauma from residential schools, work with communities who are seeking healing from post-traumatic slave syndrome, confront how churches have benefited from imperial profits from enslavement, and work towards human dignity for all.
“The challenge is to continue fighting for justice,” said Rev. Dora Arce Valentin, delegate and general secretary of the Reformed-Presbyterian Church in Cuba, “to bravely burst into those comfort places… and demand healing for victims.”
“We the people, church leaders and fellow humans—can and are able to change the structures,” said Maria Mountraki, delegate from the Orthodox Church of Finland and member of the WCC Commission on Young People in the Ecumenical Movement. This is our work and we need to break the barriers, she noted, “it is not for someone else, it is for us to do.”
Samson Waweru Njoki, advisor to the assembly from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa in Kenya, called on churches and all Christians to address the structures that neglect and discriminate against people with disabilities. “We can adapt our hearts,” he said.
“We need more practical ways of dealing with the context of disability,” continued Njoki, who lifted up the importance of ensuring human dignity. “I invite you to think about some of the things we can do as a church, ecumenical movement, assembly, to make the WCC more inclusive.”
The plenary concluded with asking whether transformation and reconciliation are truly possible.
“I believe it is possible,” said Halliday, noting that true reconciliation takes time and demands change. “For there to be true transformation and reconciliation, we as churches cannot just talk about being different, we need to be different.'