Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC acting general secretary, stated: “Rev. Dr Nababan was a dynamic leader, always full of energy and commitment for the ecumenical movement over the last seven decades. He was passionate and dedicated to people, deeply knowledgeable and never fearful to speak and act with conviction in a forthright and brave manner, for the churches in the Global South and for marginalised communities. The worldwide ecumenical family will miss him dearly. It is our hope and prayer that the many who have been inspired and mentored by Rev. Dr Nababan will continue and build on his remarkable ecumenical legacy.”
From a very young age, and throughout his long and active life, Nababan energised the ecumenical movement from the grassroots to the international arena. He enabled the ecumenical movement to see the challenges and successes of Asian churches and communities more comprehensively and objectively. Born in 1933, he graduated from Jakarta theological seminary in 1956, and was honoured with a doctorate in theology from Heidelberg University in 1963.
Apart from the WCC presidency, his international ecumenical involvement included his service as a member, and then vice-moderator, of the WCC central committee, from 1983 to 1998. He also served as the vice-chairman and then as the moderator of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism 1968-1985.
Nababan personally attended the founding assembly meeting of the East Asia Christian Council (the forerunner of the Christian Conference of Asia), in Prapat, Indonesia, in 1957. He became the first youth secretary of the the Christian Conference of Asia from 1963 to 1967. Later he became the president of the the Christian Conference of Asia from 1990 to 1995. He served as the vice-president of the Lutheran World Federation from 1984 to 1991, and earlier, from 1970 to 1977, he was also the moderator of Lutheran World Service. Nababan was the first moderator of the United Evangelical Mission from 1996 to 2000. His ecumenical contributions and leadership in Indonesia included his service as the general secretary of the Council of Churches in Indonesia from 1967 to 1984, and also as its chairperson from 1984 to 1987.
His lengthy service and substantial contributions to ecumenism are acknowledged globally. For his service, Nababan was awarded the Mesrop Mashtots’ medal by the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia His Holiness Aram I in February 2020.
Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, WCC acting deputy general secretary reflected, "Coming for a multi-religious context and a crucible of world religions in Asia, he was devoted to promoting cooperation, peace and harmony between Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists communities. He saw the existential challenges faced by all humanity as a common challenge to all, and contributed to creating solutions, and promoting mutual trust and accountability among leaders from diverse faiths.”
“Rev. Dr Nababan believed in equitable partnerships in mission, and questioned the dominance of the wealthier churches in the ecumenical movement and was also critical of the patronising attitudes of dominant and powerful churches. He was a living witness, striving for the unity of churches in mission without compromising the struggles of people in the margins of society, for justice and peace. He spoke prophetically and fearlessly on key issues to the powerful,” observed Rev. Dr Risto Jukko, director, WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.
Rev. Dr Soritua Nababan is survived by his wife, Alida Lumbantobing, and his children Hotasi, Sindar, and Rosida. His funeral will take place 11 May in his hometown Siborongborong, North Sumatra, in Indonesia.