20th YMCA World Council: A Historic milestone!


Last Updated (Tuesday, 02 August 2022 15:02)

Throughout my ecumenical career, I have attended several global assemblies over the past decades. However, as the APAY staff, it was my first experience attending the recently concluded 20th World Council of YMCA. Under the leadership of our General Secretary Nam Boo Won, I had an opportunity to get closely associated with several processes of the Council and add to my learning curve. In retrospect, I am inspired by the various discussions and deliberations of the World Council. Let me share some of the outcomes of the 20th YMCA World Council - the biggest World Council ever, with 1200 people online and 1200 in-person in Aarhus, Denmark, that ended on the 8th of July. From July 3-9, the members of the World Council engaged and witnessed exciting and ground-breaking outcomes and decisions.

Some Highlights of the World Council are:

• The adoption of a Movement-wide Vision 2030, which consists of one collective vision statement, one collective mission statement, four collective priority action areas, and 12 collective goals to turn the priorities into action at the YMCA, the community and the global level. Vision 2030 is a framework for global alignment which allows each of the 120 YMCA National Movements to go at their own pace according to their own strengths and their own communities’ needs in pursuit of common goals.

• The launch of the implementation of Vision 2030: 35 ‘Co-Lab’ (‘collaboration laboratory’) groups met in Aarhus, and 8 met online to flesh out the 12 collective goals. The findings of the groups are now being collated and analysed. A meeting in Geneva in September 2022 will share findings and next steps.

(one of the Co-Labs Session on A Sustainable Planet)

(APAY members online participation)

The admission of YMCA Kosovo as a full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs.

• The election (for the first time, by electronic voting incorporating in-person and online official voting delegates) of a new President, Soheila Hayek of YMCA Lebanon, a new Deputy-President, Ronald Yam of Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong, a new Treasurer, Cici Rojas of YMCA of the USA, and 11 newly elected members of the 22-person Executive Committee which will oversee World YMCA activities in the period 2022-2026.

(from left: Treasurer, President, Vice President)
(Executive Committee members- from AP-Ms. Karren Joy Fetalvero, The Philippines, Mr.Christopher Lewis, Australia)

• A chance to reflect on four turbulent years from 2018 to 2022 – a time of Covid pandemic and more – in which the YMCA Movement journeyed together and became stronger in the process: former President Patricia Pelton and continuing Secretary General Carlos Sanvee told the story in words and film.

• A platform for addresses by keynote speaker former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and YMCA leaders from the US and Australia, as well as a forum for debate in the form of six ‘Engagement Panels’ on the topics of wellbeing, work, digitisation, climate, peace, and justice, and one ‘Engagement Plenary’ showcasing the work of the YMCA Youth Led Solutions Initiative and the Global Youth Mobilization.

(Participation of youth, ecumenical partner at the Engagement Panels from Asia Pacific)

An online event platform which offered delegates exclusive time with the Secretary General, the outgoing and incoming Presidents, and Youth Solutions Leaders. The online programme also offered a daily round-up show hosted both in person and online. (Sources: World YMCA)

GS Nam Boo Won brings greetings to the World Council

The 20th World Council passed four resolutions on safeguarding peace on the Korean Peninsula Peace in Israel and Palestine, young people as peacebuilders

Another important highlights of the World Council was the daily devotions. For half-an-hour each day the members gathered to worship together and reflect on the spiritual values linked with the four pillars of with focus on ‘Wholeness’ (for Community Wellbeing), ‘Hope’ (for Meaningful Work), ‘Responsibility’ (for Sustainable Planet), and ‘Dignity’ (for a Just World). The devotions were inspiring, uplifting and challenging!

(Joy Eva Bohol, Youth Secretary of WCC, Fr. Philip Thomas Chairperson of Mission and Response Committee APAY bring message during the devotion)

The Women’s Leadership luncheon at the Aarhus Town Hall in Denmark, hosted by the former World YMCA President Patricia Pelton brought stories and experiences of women leaders within the YMCA. This event also exhibited women's participation and leadership roles in the life of the YMCA movement.

“Equal gender leadership representation is necessary for organisations, and the evidence shows that companies with this leadership ratio get better results,” Patricia said.

Soheila Hayak – President-elect, said, “My journey is no different to your journey – every one of us is a leader.”

(Sunita Suna & Ms. Nagako Okado, ExCo member, & member of the gender equity committee at the Women’s Leadership Luncheon)

A big delegation from the Asia and Pacific region participated at the world council in person and online. The youth from the Korea YMCA did a signature campaign for peace on the Korean peninsula, while other youth from the Asia Pacific shared their work at the exhibition and participated in the engagement panel and other activities. APAY and YMCA of Asia Pacific staff members were the Co-Lab facilitators in person and online.

(Youth from Korea, Hong Kong, GS YMCA Korea, Kim Kyung Min at the exhibition zone)

World Council is an opportunity to meet and connect with people and partners, and the APAY held a few luncheon side meetings. A partner support group was formed in solidarity with the YMCA Sri Lanka; the meeting with the YUSA allowed sharing of the ongoing work and best practices of the local projects in YMCAs in the APAY region supported by the YUSA, and a brief meeting with the YMCA/YWCA of Denmark to discuss and share on Christian faith and Spirituality was enriching!

(Meeting with the Y USA)

In conclusion, I affirm the relevance of the world's oldest ecumenical movement, which believes “that they all may be one” in today’s changing and challenging context. The very namesake of the "YMCA” which might communicate to people outside the Y, a space only meant for men, however, in reality, is breaking new grounds. Being a woman, I felt welcomed, integrated and experienced a “safe space” during the World Council. The election of yet another woman as the new President of the World YMCA, Soheila Hayek, shows the commitment towards inclusiveness and gender justice. I am also inspired by the involvement, ownership and dynamism of the young people in the Council. Indeed the 20th YMCA World Council provided diverse experiences for the participants to celebrate the life and collective work of the global family! The numerous groundbreaking outcome enlisted above will go a long way to pave the way toward a more relevant, inclusive, and dynamic ecumenical movement. Together we look forward to the next gathering of the World Council, four years later, in July 2026, when Toronto, Canada, will host the 21st World Council!

APAY thanked Ms. Patricia Pelton for her leadership as the President of the World YMCA-2019-2022

By Sunita Suna
Programme Executive, APAY