A Message by Dr. AHN Jae-Woong

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That They All May Be One (John 17:21)

- A Message at the Executive Committee Meeting of the APAY -

 

By Dr. AHN Jae-Woong


Today, we gathered here in Jeju, the ‘Island of World Peace’, to celebrate the completion of the headquarters of the Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs and hold the first Executive Committee Meeting (ECM) at this memorable moment. I would like to sincerely welcome all of you and express my gratitude to the distinguished guests and YMCA leaders who came here from all over the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

The YMCA is the world's first civic movement organization, founded in London in 1844 by George Williams and 12 colleagues based on Christian teachings. Then, in Paris in 1855, intellectuals, educators, businessmen, and lay leaders of the time, led by Henri Dunant, founded the World YMCA, which continues to this day.

In 1933, the first Asia YMCA Leaders' Conference was held in Baguio, Philippines. Attendees at this meeting analyzed current issues in Asia and refined six major tasks for the YMCA. Realizing the need for an Asia Alliance of YMCAs. The 2nd Asia YMCA Leaders' Conference was held in Bangkok in 1949 and an Asia Regional Committee was formed. Asia YMCA has pledged to become self-reliant based on mutual fellowship and cooperation while solidifying its Christian identity and strengthening local communities. The Asia Alliance of YMCAs, organized in this way, held the 3rd Asia YMCA Leaders Conference in Baguio in 1953 and adopted “strengthening spirituality, leadership training, documentation & communication, mutual exchanges, global mobility, improving education and technology, international cooperation” as the movement tasks of the Asia YMCA.

John R. Mott, a master of the ecumenical movement, toured Asia and introduced YMCA to many countries. Luther Wishard followed him by touring Asian countries for four years and contributed greatly to organizing the Asia YMCA. Led by Leung Siu Chah, an outstanding leader of the YMCA China, the Asia YMCA Secretariat was opened in Hong Kong in 1949, and he served as the first General Secretary from 1950. Over the past decades, many professional leaders worked in the Hong Kong Secretariat. After long and deep consultations with the APAY Board and affiliated National Movements, Nam Boo Won, the current General Secretary, has carried out the collective decision to move the headquarters of the Asia Pacific YMCA to this place in Jeju. Finally, we are having a Grand Opening Ceremony of the new headquarters office today. The APAY is also a regional body that had as its General Secretaries, Rev. Lee Soo-min and Dr. Bart Shaha, later appointed as Secretary General of the World YMCA.

APAY headquarters has left Hong Kong, the hub of global financial center, and moved to Jeju, the island of world peace. Jesus the Savior was born in a stable in Bethlehem. It became an example of a noble life being born alongside poultries. The APAY headquarters in Jeju will serve as the YMCA's mill. It will be a house that processes various grains produced in the Asia-Pacific region and provides life-saving foods to all, particularly to the coming generations. It will become a blacksmith shop that precisely refines the precious program stones of YMCAs in the Asia-Pacific region. It will become a warehouse that creates and supplies well-molded programs needed by each National Movement in a timely manner. Just as the Magi came to the stable in Bethlehem, this place will become a popular attraction for program participants not only from our region, but also from all over the world. This will be a shining house on a hill, a “Beacon Hill”. Following the missionary work style of Apostle Paul, we will work here in Jeju as a “mission station” for a long while.

In 1891, the insignia was adopted to express the YMCA movement more clearly. John 17:21 contains the prayer of Christ Jesus, “that they may all be one/ut omnes unum sint”, and includes the letter “Pax”, which symbolizes PEACE.  The YMCA movement strives to create a peaceful society by achieving unity, brother/sisterhood, and ecumenism at the same time. In addition, the YMCA's red triangle badge clearly identifies the symbolism and identity of the movement as an institution that produces well-rounded individuals with a balanced spirit, mind, and body.

YMCA is an organization that has produced countless leaders of the global ecumenical movement. Thanks to these leaders, the ecumenical movement has developed greatly. The biblical basis for the ecumenical movement is the confession that “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God” (Ephesians 4:5) and “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). We are achieving the beautiful ideal of “doctrine divides, service unites.” The ecumenical movement has the characteristics of being both “universal (oikoumene)” and “local (oikoudome)”.

Everyone unanimously calls today's reality a crisis. First of all, the climate crisis has become an utmost issue. Climate change has caused a climate crisis, and preventing climate collapse through climate action and achieving climate justice has become a top priority for global citizens to work together and solve. In addition, the crisis of democracy and peace are also serious. Like the military forces of the past, a return to dictatorship or authoritarianism is occurring all over the world. In the face of this crisis, it is urgent to revitalize the movement to build a just society. John Rawls said, “Justice as fairness.” However, Michael Sandel presented three conditions for reaching a just or fair society. “First, maximizing welfare, second, respecting freedom, and third, promoting virtues.” Additionally, the development and threat of nuclear weapons, including from North Korea, is greatly deepening the sense of crisis among citizens around the world. Many other crises are threatening our future as well.

We welcome the establishment of the headquarters of the APAY, which will bring a “wave of life” and a “wind of peace” here in Jeju, the island of world peace. As the YMCA motto, that contains the prayer of Christ Jesus, says, “That they  may all be one”, I hope that we will serve as a hub for creating a fair world filled with justice, peace, life, and love on this earth. I also hope that it will become a platform of public discourse that creates a fair world where everyone co-exists and prospers in harmony. Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25).

These are words that everyone who attended today's precious inauguration ceremony of the new APAY Headquarters and the Executive Committee Meeting should keep in mind. May the peace that the Lord gives us be with all of us. Thank you.

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Dr. AHN Jae-Woong is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, NCY-Korea and the

Former General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia. He presented the opening message during the Executive Committee Meeting and the inauguration of the APAY’s Jeju Headquarters from April 19-21, 2024, at Jeju, South Korea.