World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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12 Octover 2000

WCC general secretary to experience Nigeria's "evolving ecumenism"

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), looks forward to experiencing the "evolving and challenging ecumenical situation" in Nigeria during his visit there from 14-22 October 2000. He notes that not only traditionally ecumenically-minded churches, but also African instituted churches, the Roman Catholic Church, as well as evangelical churches participate actively in Nigeria's ecumenical organizations. "I want to learn from an ecumenical situation that is characteristic of the African context at the beginning of the 21st century," he explains.

The main purpose of the general secretary's visit is to hear more about the concerns of the churches and to strengthen links between them and the WCC. The visit begins with an ecumenical worship service on Sunday, 15 October in Abuja, where Dr Raiser will preach, and continues with meetings with the leaders of the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as well as with church leaders across the country. "I hope this visit will help the WCC get a new grasp of the complex economic, political, interfaith and ecumenical situation in Nigeria," Raiser says.

Churches in Civil Society
The churches' role in the country's evolving political context will be a focus in meetings with Nigerian president H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo on 16 October and with other state governors throughout the visit. Raiser notes that, after a series of military regimes, Nigeria is now progressing towards democracy yet is still dealing with the legacy of the past. "What can Christians and ecumenical bodies do to help introduce economic transparency, fairness and justice as a precondition for addressing the needs of the poorest sectors of society?" he asks.

The WCC general secretary will also meet with members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and with representatives of the Niger/Delta communities, as well as with representatives of Shell Petroleum Development Company. A December 1996 WCC report detailed the plight of the Ogoni people and the Council subsequently held meetings with high-level Shell representatives.

Christian-Muslim Relations
Raiser is scheduled to meet with leaders of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council in Abuja, and to tour the Kaduna and Zaria regions to view areas destroyed by both Christians and Muslims in recent violence between them in some Northern states as a result of the imposition of Shari'a (Islamic law).

Noting past good relationships and dialogue between Nigerians of both faiths, "How to encourage government and civil society to promote sharing and openness among religions, and Christian and Muslims to continue building upon the dialogue already there?" Raiser asks.

The WCC general secretary will be accompanied by the general secretary of the Fellowship of Councils of Churches of West Africa Baffour D. Amoa, Arnold Temple and Mitch Odero from the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), and Evelyne Appiah, William Temu and (for two days) Tarek Mitri from WCC staff.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, 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.