Oicumenic Booster For Reconciliation And Unity – Fary Francis *

KarIsruhe-Jerman, www.sinodegmit.or.id, I feel grateful to be able to attend the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) that was attended by approximately 4000 participants from various countries and attended by 322 member churches. This meeting is held in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. Regarding the name of the location of this meeting, it turns out that there is a story behind it. According to the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church, Radu Constantin Miron, Karlsruhe means Karl who sleeps. Based on the legend, when the founder of this city fell asleep near a tree, he had a dream and got the idea to build this city. That is why it was named Karlsruhe.  In the spirit of building reconciliation and unity, the attendance of the participants in this assembly is certainly not to relax or just to have a vacation. Archbishop Miron said that the German Church hopes this assembly would not be a place for people to sleep. God will always ask if we are still sleeping. It all depends on us, whether this Karlsruhe would sleep or would rise. The Archbishop hopes this General Assembly would be a kind of wake up call for new things. 

The theme of this assembly is “Christ’s Love Moves the World for Reconciliation and Unity”. For Rev Christian Krieger, the President of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), this General Assembly must achieve the vision of reconciliation and unity in the midst of a world that is currently torn apart. “For us in Europe, how to convey a prophetic voice to people with responsibilities is a real struggle. The theme of this Assembly is at the heart of our mission as it continues to convey a prophetic voice within European society that is increasingly becoming more secular.” According to him, the love of Christ draws us into reconciliation and unity, so that we obtain a new meaning in the midst of this world situation. Migration, continuing racism, divisive populism, environmental crises, increase in weapon usages in Ukraine-Russia war; all these challenges underline the responsibility of the church, how to maintain a peaceful world. The centralization of all meetings, encounters, dialogues, and sharings throughout this assembly is LOVE. Without love we are unable in reaching reconciliation and unity. God’s love must be our center. Because as Apostle Paul said, without love we could do nothing. Thus, the love of Christ moves us toward peace and unity, which we have always been longed for. As love drives reconciliation and world unity, from the city of Karlsruhe we ask why there is no reconciliation between Russia and Ukraine? Is it because love no longer exists? Rev Christian Krieger underlined the Russia-Ukraine war in this assembly and emphasized what it means to be a church in Europe and what it means to host this assembly. Krieger hopes that the General Assembly would be a kind of ecumenical booster for Europe, transforming all people to global ecumenism for reconciliation and unity.  From August 31 to September 8, 2022, the Assembly participants and delegates gather in this “sleeping city” of Karlsruhe. The name of this city has become a kind of self-criticism for the churches today. Maybe we have been a sleeping church for a long time, a church that is hard to keep its eyes open. Is that how the church sleeps, like Karl who finally came up with the idea to build a city? Or is the sleep of our churches a sleep of tiredness, laziness, apathy, full of burdens, lack of enthusiasm and loss of future? 

Karlsruhe is self-critical that we have often become a sleeping church. A church that cares of its own business. A church that only focuses on its own ministry. A church that does not dare open its eyes and look out of its window on other realities out there. A church that is already comfortable in its own ghetto (cave). A church that does not dare to cross over other situations and conditions. Do we want to keep sleeping in Karlsruhe or do we want to wake up together? Karlsruhe collectively demands the churches not to sleep, but to be on alert. We are a living church in the midst of the world. On the outside there are more realities of the world. We are dealing with the current world situation: migration, continuing racism, divisive populism, environmental crisis, the threat of nuclear weapons, increasing weapon usages in Ukraine-Russia war.  

This is the reality that our churches also face. Are we still going to sleep? Or should we immediately rise up to fight together to create reconciliation and unity? Right now, reconciliation is like a vaccine. So is unity. Churches, nations must be vaccinated with reconciliation and unity. However, those vaccines will only become complete, strong, enduring and perfect if we have a booster called LOVE. This love booster allows the reconciliation vaccine and the unity vaccine to work optimally as only the love booster can move them. 

Within the churches in Indonesia, we really need a love booster to be able to drive the vaccine for reconciliation and unity. Indonesian churches also face their own problems. By not being a sleeping church, we can understand the real deals around us. Approximately 2 years, we have been facing the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a huge and hard blow to our churches. Covid destroys the establishment of our way of thinking, liturgical procedures, as well as our perspective on others. Covid-19 pandemic challenges the churches to develop their ministries in various forms of innovation due to various restrictions imposed by health authorities. Churches in Indonesia play significant roles in the efforts of overcoming Covid-19 pandemic together with the government and various other elements within the nation. During Covid-19 Pandemic, churches manage their roles in three categories; 

  1. The church as the center of the management in the development of meaning. The prolonged pandemic results in the people’s substantial questions on life and God’s role in it. In that situation the church exists to offer the meaning of life as well as the spiritual model that people must hold to adapt to the challenges of Covid-19. Many theological thoughts and disaster spirituality formulations as well as pastoral models have been developed by various churches in Indonesia throughout Covid-19 Pandemic. 
  2. Church as the center of literacy and education. The role of literacy and education is managed by the church in the cooperation of numerous policies as well as health and government authorities. Covid-19 pandemic as a humanitarian correction in this century requires people to adapt to a number of new habits that require basic knowledge and technical capacity. The church offers literacy and internal education to meet those needs, thus in many churches there is a Covid-19 pandemic response center/1force. 
  3. Church as the center of the solidarity movement. Covid-19 pandemic affects life, not only in  health but also in social, economic and political situations. By this, the churches are called to voice and mobilize humanitarian solidarity in various forms that aim at easing each other’s burdens. Numerous innovations have been made, especially in the field of transformative diaconia.   

Another reality beside Covid-19 is the issue of ecological crisis and injustice. Until today, nature continues to ask for help due to massive environmental damage and poses a very serious climate change problem. We are on the verge of an ecological apocalypse. The decline in morality and ecological justice, only to fulfill the gratification of the world’s desires (epithumia), has led us to a pandemic of gluttony. The destruction of forest and marine ecosystems, the acute increase of global warming, those must be heard by Christians as a call and step of their faith. 

These are all forms of ecological injustice, which do not only threaten and sacrifice nature, but also every entity in it, including indigenous peoples. Those who are born and live in the nature that they have inhabited for a long time must be taken from them due to land stealing by giant concessions. Their food sources and daily livelihoods are decreasing, even disappearing, due to massive forest logging and mining activities that continue to spread to the points where the natural resources lay. 

The damage of the forest becomes the easiest indicator to see the environmental problems. Although damages can also occur in the sea or in people’s gardens. The changes in the converted nature landscapes will be clearly visible as a form of environmental damage. Floods and landslides are the huge impacts of them, meanwhile the forest damage has occurred. Every year, Indonesia’s forests continue to lose areas and trees or deforestation, which is caused by large-scale land-based industries, such as mining, plantations and forestry. The three are also often called extractive industries as their activities carry out land and forest demolition. The large-scale tourism industry has the potential to do the same. 

Mining company concessions, large-scale plantations and timber industries, do not only convert natural forests. It is not rare that agricultural lands, residential areas, as well as the forests of indigenous peoples are taken away. There are times where places to pray are also evicted. Land conflicts start to arise, mostly by the residents who become victims. They are criminalized to death, only because they want to defend their land. Land conflicts that are caused by mining, large-scale plantations and forestry always happen every year. The cases can increase or decrease. Those conflicts not only occur between companies and citizens but also the security forces and the residents, as well as between the residents themselves. Of course, there are people who sided with the company in this case. The conflicts that occur do not only start with the issue of eviction or land grabbing. The result in environmental impacts also contribute to conflict. Residents who demand losses due to floods, landslides or pollution from company are often confronted by the authorities or thugs, which then lead to disputes. 

Right now we are focusing on the context of Gereja Masehi Injili in Timor (GMIT). GMIT should learn from Karlsruhe’s philosophy, about sleep to produce something positive or never sleep but to be on guard. GMIT is not allowed to sleep in the midst of the various realities of NTT which can be clearly seen by our eyes.  

  • The case of East Nusa Tenggara migrant workers  

One of the cases that often occurs in East Nusa Tenggara is the large number of illegal migrant workers from NTT who work abroad. The main problem is poverty in East Nusa Tenggara. That is what pushed many East Nusa Tenggara people to leave. Poverty causes children from East

Nusa Tenggara to migrate to Malaysia, Hong Kong and other countries in Southeast Asia. The fact is that not all Migrant Workers are lucky, most of them have to experience violence, unpaid work, withheld documents by employers and death. In 2016 to 2019, the cases of migrant worker deaths came from Kupang, Flores and Sumba based on data compiled by Rumah Harapan Shelter of Christian Evangelical Church of Timor (GMIT) of 250 people. Although there is a moratorium on sending migrant workers to East  Nusa Tenggara, illegal workers still continue to move out. There is always a dispatch of East Nusa Tenggara migrant workers who died in the workplace.   

  • Cyclone Seroja 

In April 2021, Indonesia’s attention was again drawn to East Nusa Tenggara when Cyclone Seroja occurred and hit all parts of area. This condition was exacerbated by the long duration of the storm and the geographical characteristics of East Nusa Tenggara which is divided into several islands. This condition results in the limited access of transportation, communication, and electricity so that the logistics distribution was blocked. In such an emergency response condition, it turned out that there were already several local networking institutions that already existed and were working at their best. Even though there were limited conditions, Communion of Churches in Indonesia (or what we called PGI) continued to manage its role as a main organization to organize the roles of the institutions in coordination with Communion of Churches in Sumba and Communion of Churches in Timor (GKS and GMIT). The results of this coordination also produced quite satisfactory results, GKS and GMIT were assisted by the presence of the PGI network institution which actively responded to emergency situations throughout the situation.  Besides coordinating the networking institutions, PGI had opened a donating agenda for disaster care in East Nusa Tenggara. The donation was sent to an account made only for NTT that the PGI member churches as well as other institutions and concerned individuals were also 0articipating in. Every donation and distribution is informed to WAG Church Leaders, PGI Members, as well as to institutions and individuals who donated.  

  • Stunting Case  

Stunting is a serious condition in children that is characterized by children’s height that are below the average or very short children and their body does not grow and develop properly according to their age and it lasts for a long time. The reason is because the mother does not have access to healthy and nutritious food, thus causing their baby to be malnourished. Other than that, the low intake of vitamins and minerals that are consumed by the mother can also affect the condition of fetal malnutrition.  

Nationally, the government targets that by 2024 the stunting rate shall already be at 14 percent. The current conditions, districts/cities in East Nusa Tenggara are still around 23 percent and above. Based on the 2021 Indonesian Nutrition Status Study (SSGI), there were still 15 districts in East Nusa Tenggara with red status. The red status was based on the prevalence of stunting cases, which was still above 30 percent. Meanwhile, the other 7 districts and cities had yellow status with a prevalence of 20 to 30 percent. The three regions namely Ngada Regency, East Sumba and Ngekeo, were close to red status. There is not a single area in East Nusa Tenggara that had a green status, which had a stunting prevalence of between 10 and 20 percent. Moreover, blue status for stunting prevalence below 10 percent.

Upon these various realities, we need to be returning to the spirit of the Assembly of the world’s churches. Whether as a church, we are still asleep, like to sleep or make this moment as a time of wake up call. The European Church, the Indonesian church and GMIT certainly hope that this assembly will not be a place for us to sleep. God will always ask if we are still sleeping. All this depends on us, whether we still want to sleep the ecumenical or it will rise. Drink a love booster so that we can move the reconciliation and unity for the world.  

  • Fary Francis: Evangelical Christian Church of Timor (GMIT) Assembly Participant

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