The new president of the World Alliance of YMCAs has said the movement will do more to provide services to people in need, and must "work urgently" to help young people take up leadership roles in global affairs - writes Francis Wong..
"For the first time in our world's history, most of our global population will become urbanised, primarily in the world's poorest countries, where safety, sanitation and health care are often scarce," the new president of the world alliance, Kenneth B. Colloton, told the 24 July 2010 closing session of the YMCAs' world council in Hong Kong.
"Our urban YMCAs in developing nations have over 100 years of experience in these settings, and must work closer with other NGOs [non-governmental organisations] to coordinate and to optimise YMCAs' efforts," he said.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Alliance of YMCAs is a confederation of national councils of YMCAs around the world.
Colloton, a banker from the United States, who has been involved in the YMCA movement since the 1970s, was elected during the 19-24 July council meeting. He was board chairperson of the YMCA of the USA from 2007 to 2010.
Listing challenges, such as hunger and malnourishment, HIV and AIDS, and aging, Colloton said the movement's Christian identity provides a guiding framework for YMCAs in doing God's work to help the poor and persecuted.
The YMCA describes itself as a global ecumenical movement that works to bring social justice and peace to young people and their communities, regardless of religion, race, gender or culture.
YMCAs must, "work urgently to connect our youth to the changing world," Colloton said. "It is time for our young adults to take a greater leadership role in our global affairs."
He said that with economic and political influence shifting to Africa, Latin America and Asia, YMCAs, "must prepare our youth with the skills to effectively lead and serve in these areas, especially with respect to commerce and social services".
The new Secretary General of the world alliance, the Rev. Johan Vilhelm Eltvik, a Norwegian Lutheran, was formally presented to the world council on 24 July.
Eltvik told the gathering that there is a need for young energy and leadership to capture changes in the movement, and he would also like to see stronger volunteer influence.
"YMCA should open up faster for women's leadership," he added.
A report presented to the world council by outgoing Secretary General Bart Shaha noted that, "Most YMCAs still see the role of young people primarily as volunteer leaders or participants. Young people are rarely involved at any significant level ... this observation needs to be strategically addressed."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]