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ROUND TABLE MEETING WITH CHURCHES FROM
cf. WCC Central Committee Press Release No.16 of 2 September 1999
cf. WCC Press Update of 14 September 1999
cf. WCC Press Update of 14 October 1999
Present at the round table, convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the CCA, were Protestant church leaders from the Indonesia Communion of Churches (PGI), the troubled areas of Irian Jaya, Moluccas and West Timor, as well as from East Timor. Also attending were representatives of eight mission partners from Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada.
The meeting was itself a "small miracle", said Rev. David Gill, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia, commenting on "the way the Christian community has held together."
Among those at the table was Rev. Francisco de Vasconcelos, earlier reported killed in the violence that followed the pro-independence vote in East Timor. Vasconcelos, general secretary of the Greja Kristen Timor Timur (GKTT) Synod, said that his church was so dramatically affected that only four pastors remained. The others were forced to flee, primarily to neighbouring West Timor where there are an estimated 250,000 refugees.
De Vasconcelos stressed the need to coordinate international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance. Further priorities in East Timor include human development programmes for women, youth and church workers, as well as facilities for church activities. He also emphasized the need for reconciliation among East Timorese Christians divided by political opinion.
While East Timor prepares to join the community of nations, the GKTT is readying itself for independence from the PGI. "In mutual respect, we seek to develop and strengthen the local churches in East Timor with our 'twin brothers', the churches in Indonesia, Australia and the WCC," de Vasconcelos said.
Referring to the situation in Irian Jaya, Rev. Herman Saud, moderator of the Evangelical Christian Church in Irian Jaya (GKIJ), told mission partners that a vast majority of his people support the call for independence from Indonesia. Mission partners responded by urging the PGI to help the Irianese analyse the political and judicial implications of independence.
Clement John, WCC executive secretary for International Affairs, commented on the open atmosphere at the meeting which was previously unknown in the fractious Indonesian Protestant church: "This is the first time people from East Timor and Irian Jaya have been able to openly express their views regarding self-determination."
Noting the anticipated PGI general assembly, to be held in March 2000, Tony Waworuntu, a member of the international affairs committees of both WCC and CCA, commented on the need to "elect a new leadership", one that is "brave enough ... to put democracy into the life of the church itself."
List of Participants:
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.