With the sounds of the kulkul wooden bell at the Galang Ning Hyang Protestant Church in the Badung region of Bali, Indonesia, the 56th meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs opened on 24 February, setting its yearly regional focus on Asia.
“A value of the ecumenical movement is that it enables us to go beyond our limited experiences to find out what are the struggles in many parts in the world, and to seek what is God’s mind in these challenges”, said the commission’s moderator, Rev. Frank Chikane in his opening remarks at the gathering. “As we meet, I hope we are able to listen to each other, understand each other, and make informed decisions where needed.”
According to Rev. Dr Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, chairperson of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, the most critical issues in Indonesia are poverty, injustice, radicalization and ecological destruction. “The root cause of all these is greed, marginalizing many in our society. But God has given us many gifts, enough for everybody, as long as we are ready to share”, she said.
Hutabarat-Lebang thanked the commission for coming to Indonesia and learning about the life of local communities and the challenges they face, including human rights violations and religious freedom issues. “We can better address these concerns together, with people of different faiths, to bring justice and unity. Thanks for walking with us on this journey.”
The WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs advises WCC leadership on critical situations in the world and on opportunities to support initiatives for peacemaking and justice. The commission helps the WCC identify challenges to the churches and guides them in shaping a coherent ecumenical response.
The commission comprises 35 people nominated by WCC member churches, and meets in plenary once a year. The 56th meeting is taking place in Bali, Indonesia, on 24-28 February. During the meeting, an update on the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace will be presented and the commission’s initiatives and activities for the period 2019 - 2021 will be planned.
The meeting will include focuses on human rights and freedom of religion in Indonesia, and the human rights situation in Papua. To explore these issues more thoroughly, several commission members joined the WCC Pilgrim Team Visit to Java and Papua in advance of the meeting, visiting Surabaya and the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat.