From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF general secretary urges church unity

Date 13 Apr 2000 12:55:15

JAKARTA, Indonesia/GENEVA, 13 April 2000 (lwi) - The Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) general secretary, Dr. Ishmael Noko, during separate
visits with representatives of LWF member churches in Indonesia,
emphasized that dignity and tolerance are crucial elements in the search
for unity among Christian communities.

In discussions with pastors, elders and leaders of the Lutheran churches
in Jakarta and Medan, 1-11 March 2000, Noko reiterated his message that
Christians, especially among the Lutheran churches, should be united in
order to play a significant role in public life and contribute toward
nation building.

The LWF general secretary was leading a pastoral team to Indonesia with
the aim to facilitate and foster supportive relationships among member
churches there. The visit was also an expression of Lutheran communion
solidarity with the struggling people of Indonesia through many
discussions with churches, the Christian council and government. He was
accompanied by the LWF director for finance and administration, Mr.
Friedrich Manske, the Department for Mission and Development (DMD) area
secretary for Asia, Rev. Ginda Harahap and Ms. Kim Lai Kiew from
Malaysia, a member of the LWF Foundation Board.

The general secretary emphasized the importance of dialogue between the
government and churches, adding that this was one way of involving the
Christian community in policy matters. "The church has the task to be a
witness in the society and stand for those who are marginalized," Noko
said during a meeting with member-church and ecumenical representatives,
theology lecturers and local leaders in Medan.

He also asked the churches to support the government of President
Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice-President Megawati Soekarnoputri, whose
leadership shows commitment toward the promotion of religious tolerance
and good governance.

In a meeting with the local administrator, leaders and staff of
Indonesia's largest LWF member church, the Protestant Christian Batak
Church (HKBP), Noko commended Bishop J. R. Hutauruk for resolving a
series of crises within the 2.9 million-member church. In response the
bishop thanked the LWF for its support during past difficulties. For
about six years, the church experienced an internal conflict that was
settled in 1998.

Meeting with representatives of the newly established LWF National
Committee in Indonesia, Noko said the committee was a milestone in the
life of its members and urged the body to promote church unity.
Altogether, 3.8 million people belong to the eight LWF member churches
in Indonesia. Christians comprise about 10 percent of the national

During discussions with Dr. Joseph Pattiasina, the general secretary of
the Indonesian Council of Churches (CCI/PGI), Noko highlighted the
signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
between the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church last October as well as
wider ecumenical dialogues. He also commended the CCI/PGI for its role
in bringing together churches from different traditions.

The CCI/PGI general secretary expressed gratitude for the visit of the
LWF delegation. On the present political situation, he said the council
of churches supports President Wahid's government and is convinced that
the new leadership will make it easier for the churches to participate
in the process of nation building.

Pattiasina explained that the CCI/PGI, currently with 74 member churches
from different denominations and traditions, plans to become the United
Church of Indonesia by the year 2004.

Noko's delegation also visited the Sidakalang area, south of Medan,
where some 3,000 refugees from the Aceh region are now located. The
Gereja Kristen Protestant Pakpak Dairi (GKPPD), currently applying for
membership in the LWF, accommodates these people in cooperation with the
local administration and other churches such as the HKBP and the Roman
Catholic church.

Situated about 1,750 kilometers northwest of Jakarta, Aceh has been in
conflict with Indonesia for 25 years in the territory's struggle for
autonomy. President Wahid has said that he would offer the region, which
has a population of 4 million people, some sort of autonomy but not

(The LWF is a global communion of 128 member churches in 70 countries
representing 59 5 million of the world's 63.1 million Lutherans. Its
highest decision-making body is the Assembly, held every six or seven
years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by a 49-member Council,
which meets annually, and by its Executive Committee. The LWF
secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

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Lutheran World Information
Assistant Editor, English: Pauline Mumia

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