Referring to the yearly watchword of 2018 in Relevation 21:6 "He said to me... To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life" the UEM Moderator Willem Simarmata from North Sumatra (Indonesia) welcomed the members of the Council and the Management to the first meeting in 2018 in Wuppertal.
For the theologian Simarmata, who was born and grew up on Samosir Island, the water was almost around his everyday life. In his welcome speech he emphasized that the spring of the water of life reminds us to keep our spirit, to conduct our life in responsible ways and to serve the life of all creatures as our commitment as people who have been satisfied by the water of life. He calls UEM to sharpen and to refresh its member churches. "Our task is to offer water through the five pillars of God's Mission, so that the world will not be thirsty again", said the Moderator.
Simarmata reminded that in many countries in Africa the water crisis has worsended. Many people had died or had suffered by the lack of drinking water. In many countries in Asia a huge number of rain forest had been destroyed and transformed into plam oil plantations and housings. Rivers in many areas have been polluted by pesticides and plastics. In this moment UEM should be attentive of striving for climate justice for sustaining the water supply and for supporting awareness campaigns for the member churches.
With regard to the continous eruptions of the Sinabung volcano on North Sumatra Simarmata expressed his thanks to UEM for the support of the refugee camps provided by the GBKP member church where water und food crisis had become a major concern. He appreciated the GBKP church for its commitment and hard work for those who had lost their homes and properties. Besides several recent tropical storms in the Philippines had destroyed a great number of infrastructure. Many communities in the Philippines had suffered from the impact of such natural catastrophes, including the member church UCCP. He mentioned the volcano Mayon in the Luzon region which had erupted some weeks ago and which had affected around 84,000 persons temporarily staying in 72 evacuation centres. He informed that there is an urgend need for food, clean water, clothing and beddings. UEM together with member churches in Germany and even the small ELCRN member church in Namibia had responded to the catastrophe immediately through their financial emergency funds.
"Water is symbolized as flow of peace extinguishing hostility, hatred and conflicts", said the Moderator. He stated that the world sees that conflicts and tension have worsened every day. In Indonesia the year of 2019 would be a critical time in terms of presidential elections. He also expressed his lack of understanding on the statement of the US President Donald Trump on choosing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which would endanger the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Political tensions in D.R. Congo have caused that a number of people lost their life and families due to the political instability. He observed that the exports of military weapons and equipment to the conflicting areas, especially to the Middle East, by Western countries including Germany, had increased.
As Moderator of an international communion of churches he thanked the three Indonesian member churches GKPS, HKI und GKPI for their dedication to host the next General Assembly on North Sumatra next September. The member churches in Asia also show their commitment for fundraising by realizing a building for the UEM Asia Regional Office in Pematangsiantar, Indonesia. "We are the UEM family that each of us is able to share with another", said the Moderator.
At the meeting in Wuppertal the Council had to deal with some issues of strategic importance, e.g.: the amendment of the UEM constitution in terms of extending the meeting intervals of General Assemblies, the internationalization of the educational work, 25 years of internationalisation of UEM and the preparation of the forthcoming General Assembly next September in Indonesia.
The program also included the encounter with the church circuit Wuppertal. The deputy supterintendent Rev. Dr Jochen Denker welcomed the international UEM guests. A special highlight was the visit to the exposition "Reformation between Resistance and Adaptation" in the Gemarker-Kirche in Wuppertal-Barmen, explained by Rev. Martin Engels, Moderator of the Reformed Alliance Germany, which was followed by a dinner at the Café Negev situated on the premises of the adjacent Synagoge of Wuppertal.
Dr Martina Pauly