First woman elected to head Christian Conference of Asia

Ecumenical News International (ENI) reports on the new head of the Christian Conference in Asia:

The first woman elected as general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia has vowed to help heal wounds “not only in our societies, but also within our churches” in the world’s most populous continent.

“As brothers and sisters in such a time as this, we are ‘called to prophesy, reconcile and heal’,” said the Rev. Henriette Tabita Hutabarat-Lebang, referring to the theme of the church grouping’s 13th general assembly, meeting from 14 to 21 April in Kuala Lumpur.

She was addressing the gathering after being presented on 15 April to the applause of more than 300 delegates and guests at the meeting.

A pastor’s daughter, Hutabarat-Lebang hails from Sulawesi, one of the four larger islands of Indonesia. She was ordained to the Christian ministry in 1992 and has served in senior positions in Asia and internationally.

“A lot of wounds hound not only our societies but also our churches so let us walk hand in hand as we journey together for the next five years and with God’s grace and with your support, I’ll try to walk with you, and God will open the way for us if we trust in him,” Hutabarat-Lebang said.

The CCA consists of almost 100 member churches and 16 national church councils in Asia.

At an earlier press conference, Hutabarat-Lebang said poverty, migration, the build up of armaments, violence, human rights violations and the impact of globalisation persist as the challenges to which her leadership, along with the churches in Asia, seeks to address.

She noted that poverty in south and southeast Asia continues to force people to migrate to more developed countries in the region such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Migrants, many of them women in search of work, end up abused and alienated in receiving countries, she said.

“So as we advocate for the rights of these migrant workers, we have to engage with both sending and receiving countries to ensure that migrant workers’ rights and welfare are respected and promoted,” said Hutabarat-Lebang.

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