World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150, route de Ferney PO Box 2100 1211 Geneva 2 Switzerland E-mail: media

Ecumenical Decade Festival - Press Release No. 1
28 November 1998


Almost ten years after the Ecumenical Decade in Solidarity with women was launched, more than a thousand women from all over the world are meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe this week to take stock of what has been achieved and to discuss what they will do with their collective power.

The World Council of Churches Decade Festival, meeting 27-30 November on the campus of Belvedere Technical Teachers Training College, precedes the Eighth Assembly of the WCC which meets at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare 3-14 December.

In 1988, the Council launched the programme to provide churches with an opportunity to study and review their structures and teachings to ensure the full participation of women. The aim of the decade was to enable women and men to share equally the responsibility for nurturing and serving the church and the world.

The common blessing of women and men was symbolised in the festuval delegates themselves. They displayed a wide diversity in dress and language as people became one in worship, song and dance. About 30 of the Festival participants are men.

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro of Kenya, general secretary of the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, pointed out the paradox of Africa having a lot of poverty despite its natural riches because of heavy external debt.

"Our lives as African women are often marked by endless struggles due to economic constraints resulting from unjust practices," observed Kanyoro, who also noted that AIDS, wars, and the rape of women and girls has made life especially difficult.

Kanyoro paid tribute to Africans, however, for refusing to give up on God, themselves and the church. She said in God's eyes, the downtrodden, the poor, the refugees and displaced, the street children, abused women, the sick and the dying, are precious.

"We can no longer just call for solidarity, but rather we need to be a part of a redefining and redesigning process for all the changes we hoped for during this decade," said Kanyoro, who called for a redoubling of efforts for women's empowerment.

She identified trouble-making as another source of seeking accountability, citing the many women who challenged their churches for justice on women's concerns during the ecumenical decade, including women and children who challenged apartheid and won.

"God invites us to join in the trouble-making that leads to justice and reconciliation in our lives and in creation." Although the church did not always stand in solidarity with women, the decade gave the latter courage to "manifest the glory of God" that is within them.

The day began with the singing of the Zimbabwe national anthem by the Children's Performing Arts Workshop (CHIPAWO), a local group, in the country's two main languages, Shona and Ndebele. The anthem was followed by a Zimbabwean song of celebration and praise beckoning women and men to Jesus.

Delegates come from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, the Pacific and Africa. CHIPAWO capped everything with a play which, although related to the playing of marimba (a local instrument), taught that boys need to respect girls and their abilities for them to be able to work together.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer, (+41.22) 791.61.52 (Office); 369.37.26 (Home)

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 332, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.