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21 March 2000

First Visit in 30 Years by a WCC General Secretary to Indonesia

Cf. WCC Press Release of 9 March 2000

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), concluded the first leg of his visit to member churches in Indonesia at a big revival worship service attended by around 6,000 worshippers. Traditional folk music, sung by the Batak Protestant Christian Church (HKBP) youth choir, gave a festive air to the service, at Medan on 19 March.

After listening to his sermon "Seek the Lord and Live" (Amos 5:6), hundreds of worshippers thronged to shake Raiser's hands and thank him for the message he had brought to the people of Indonesia in these troubled times.

The first leg of Raiser's trip to North Sumatra included a day at the headquarters of the HKBP Church at Pearaja, Tarutung. Welcoming him, the Ephorous of the Church, Dr J.R. Hutauruk, stressed that this was an historic occasion, it being nearly 30 years since a WCC general secretary had last paid an official visit to Indonesia

About the HKBP Church, Ephorus Hutauruk explained that a split in in 1992 had resulted in intervention by the Indonesian military. The Church remained divided for nearly six years, causing much rancour and disappointment amongst the congregations. Efforts at reconciliation finally bore fruit at the December 1998 general synod meeting, and are continuing to be implemented with prayers at the congregational level, although it may be some time before complete reconciliation and unification can take effect.

Commenting on the conflicts in the 139-year history of his Church, Ephorous Hutauruk said, "It is the power of the gospel which prevented the HKBP from falling into a formal, irreparable and long-lasting division."

Drawing a parallel between the situations of his Church and of the nation, Hutauruk expressed the hope that the Church's experience would "help us to participate in the national effort of preventing the state of Indonesia from disintegrating". He called on the churches of Indonesia to help in the democratisation process. Only democracy can ensure the dignity and rights of all people, irrespective of their backgrounds, he insisted.

The issue of communal violence that has plagued Indonesia since its return to democracy was repeatedly brought to Raiser's attention in informal as well as formal discussions with church and community leaders. The general secretary cited the WCC's commitment to interreligious dialogue to promote peace and harmony. Human life is precious irrespective of whether a person is Christian or Muslim; the two communities must learn to live together and see this transition through to meet the challenges that Indonesia faces in the new millennium, he said.

It is precisely to respond to situations like those prevailing in Indonesia, Raiser added, that the WCC is preparing to launch a Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) in 2001.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.