World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
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E-mail: media

15 November 1999


cf. WCC Central Committee Press Release No.12 of 1 September 1999
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

Weeks after Indonesia voted for its first democratically elected president, churches from Indonesia and East Timor along with their mission partners vowed to hasten reconstruction and reconciliation efforts at a round table meeting in Hong Kong, 12-14 November. The Indonesian pastor and associate general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Rev. Dr Henriette Hutabarat, urged colleagues to "use the space for more effective common witness by churches".

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:

  • Fr Feliciano Carino, general secretary, Christian Conference of Asia
  • Dr Mathews George Chunakara, executive secretary/coordinator, International Affairs/Indochina Concerns, Christian Conference of Asia
  • Rev. Peter Demberger, Asia secretary, United Evangelical Mission, Moderator, EUKUMINDO, Wuppertal, Germany Mr Feije Duim, Asia Team, Global Ministries, Uniting Church in The Netherlands, Leusden, The Netherlands
  • Dr Pieter Holtrop, vice president, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, The Netherlands
  • Dr Nan Hudson, Asia secretary, The United Church of Canada, Ontario, Canada
  • Rev. Dr Henriette Hutabarata, associate general secretary, Christian Conference of Asia
  • Rev. David Gill, general secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia, Sydney, Australia
  • Mr Clement John, executive secretary, International Relations, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Ms Sophia Lizares-Bodegon, Philippines Rev. Hans Lutz, representative, Basel Mission, Hong Kong
  • Rev. Dr Joseph M. Pattiasina, general secretary, Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI)
  • Rev. Dr Semuel Obadja Purwadisastra, moderator/general chairman, Indonesian Christian Church (GKI), Jakarta
  • Rev. Herman Saud, moderator, Evangelical Christian Church in Irian Jaya, Jayapura, Irian Jaya
  • Mr Sabam Siagian, former Indonesian ambassador to Australia and editor of Jakarta Post
  • Ms Lydia Siahaan, member, Lutheran World Federation Task Force for East Timor Refugees
  • Rev. Eric So, general secretary, Hong Kong Christian Council, Hong Kong
  • Mrs E. Wilandari Supardan, deputy treasurer, Communion of Churches in Indonesia, Jakarta
  • Dr Tom Therik, dean, Christian University Artha Wacana, Kupang, West Timor
  • Rev. Sammy P. Titaley, moderator, The Protestant Church in the Moluccas, Ambon
  • Rev. Francisco de Vasconcelos, general secretary, Greja Kristen Timor Timur, East Timor
  • Mr Tony Waworuntu, member, Christian Conference of Asia (International Affairs) and World Council of Churches (International Affairs)
  • Rev. Josef P. Widyatmadja, executive secretary, Urban Rural Mission, Christian Conference of Asia
  • Mr W.M.R. Wuisang, coordinator, Crisis Centre, Communion of Churches in Indonesia

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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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.