18th General Assembly, 2011, Penang, Malaysia - A Journey Towards Transformation

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Last Updated (Wednesday, 19 October 2011 12:14)


“Do not dwell in the past.
Do not stay in the present.
Change with the trends.
Change with the time.”

These words of the Chinese sage Guan Zhong offer wisdom for the future work, ministry and witness of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY) and its member movements as they conclude APAY’s 18th General Assembly in Penang, Malaysia, where the 305 delegates discussed the assembly theme of “Breaking Barriers, Transforming Lives” from September 6 to 10, 2011. This challenging theme impels the participants to not only identify the barriers in the diverse contexts of the region that deny people their human dignity but to begin a journey to transform these injustices into justice through living out the values of the participants’ Christian faith. Responding to these barriers of injustice requires transformation of both the individual delegates and the YMCA itself in order for it to effectively work toward transforming the larger community and society where the YMCA finds itself in the Asia and Pacific region.


During the past four years, a principal hallmark of the life of APAY and its member movements has been empowerment of the youth in the region. As an organization committed to youth, however, this emphasis should not be construed as something new. The “new creation” in the ministry of APAY during the past quadrennium is its endeavors to intentionally make APAY an organization of and by the region’s youth, to think and relate to the youth, not as objects of YMCA programs, but as subjects who determine with others what these programs are and why and how they are initiated and implemented. As noted in the evaluation of the Quadrennial Program Plans, or QPP, for 2008 to 2011 at this assembly, this new orientation in the life of APAY is still in its infancy. There is still a need for further transformation of the mindsets and attitudes of YMCA boards, committees, staff members and volunteers to regard the region’s youth as valued partners in the life, ministry and witness of the YMCA in Asia and the Pacific.

The last four years have also seen the APAY and its member movements seek to be more relevant advocates in their communities and societies by taking more seriously the constant challenge of God to be more loving neighbors, especially to the least of these; to be better stewards of God’s Creation; to be a brighter light in a darker and more unjust and less peaceful world. The vehicles for this deeper engagement with society have been programs that nurture Global Citizenship, that respond to Gender Concerns, Migrant Workers and Refugees, Ageing and Older Persons, Peace and Justice and Interfaith Cooperation and the Environment and Climate Change. Like the initiative to empower youth above, the journey began years ago. In Penang, APAY and its member movements recommit themselves to this journey of Christian mission and witness in their communities and societies.

To be more resourceful travelers on this ongoing journey toward transformation, it is wise to have a clear vision of what APAY and its member movements want to do and why they are taking this fork in the road. The 18th General Assembly theme of “Breaking Barriers, Transforming Lives” provides a good signpost to guide this journey.

The barriers of injustice that inhibit people in the Asia and Pacific region, as well as other parts of the world, from living life fully with dignity as children of God—the barriers ofhunger and other manifestations of poverty, such as poor educational and health facilities; war and other forms of violence; gender discrimination and other expressions of inequality; ethnic and religious intolerance and other disrespectful ways of relating to those who are different. There is one additional barrier: the fear of APAY and its member movements to step outside of their comfort zones to take the risks that are required of Christians committed to being God’s servants in building the Reign of God in this world.

The assembly was reminded of the words of Matthew 25 that neglecting the poor and those who are oppressed is the same as neglecting God. Therefore, reaching out to the poor and oppressed is the same as reaching out to God; and in the relationships that develop and the experiences that occur in this exchange, God reaches out to those who take this challenge and risk, and the gift of transformation becomes possible.

Implicit in the assembly discussions was an unequivocal affirmation of the historical journey of the YMCA movement as a pioneer of the ecumenical movement with an exhortation to all YMCAs to work together and forge enduring links with other ecumenical bodies as part of a process to revitalize the ecumenical movement around the world.


It is therefore with the vision and intention to break all barriers that the APAY and its member movements heed the call of their Christian faith to take these actions:

  • To make youth empowerment a key pillar in achieving YMCAs’ desired goals;
  • To nurture Global Citizenship as a means to break barriers and transform lives;
  • To ensure gender equity and move toward achieving gender justice within the APAY and its member movements as well as the larger society;
  • To change attitudes and behaviors toward achieving climate justice and promote awareness and advocacy on environmental issues in the community as good stewards of God’s Creation;
  • To promote the creation of alternative tourism throughout the region and facilitate the establishment of a global alternative tourism network;
  • To encourage movement strengthening in all YMCA movements with good governance practices, effective resource mobilization and leadership development at the local and national levels.

As we conclude the General Assembly, we must also consecrate ourselves to the goals enunciated above so that

“When we join our hands together we stand
Sharing a smile with friends and people of the world
We can change the world
Giving peace and love
Breaking the Barriers
Transforming the Lives”