World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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E-mail: media

8 March 2001

WCC general secretary to visit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

The situation of Christian minorities, inter-religious dialogue, overcoming violence and consequences of globalization such as climate change and debt release will be among the topics pursued by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, on his visit to the People's Republic of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, from 10 - 18 March.

Raiser's first stop on his Asia trip is Bangladesh (10 - 14 March), where his programme will include meetings with representatives of the National Council of Churches of Bangladesh (NCC) and WCC member churches.

A conversation with Bangladesh's president, Justice Shahabudin Ahmed, and talks with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and Muslim leaders are also planned. Raiser will also visit Gazipur and meet with the tribal people there.

Two churches in Bangladesh belong to the WCC. They are the Communion of Baptist Churches in Bangladesh (Bangladesh Baptist Sangha), with some 33,000 members, and the Church of Bangladesh, with 14,000 members, which is an associate member church. In addition to these two churches, the National Council of Churches of Bangladesh also includes the Bogra Chrisio Church, Bangladesh Presbyterian Church, Church of God and Bangladesh Evangelical Baptist Fellowship. Christians represent 0.3% of the country's population of 125 million, 88.3 % of whom are Muslim.

Meetings with representatives of the National Christian Council are also on the programme in Sri Lanka (14 - 18 March). Besides this, Raiser will have a meeting with the leadership of the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka, when he will link up with a dialogue which the National Christian Council has recently started with Buddhist and other religious groups. The topics raised in these conversations could include the repeated complaints from the Buddhist side about Christian evangelizing.

A conversation with the prime minister of Sri Lanka, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, and other members of the government is also foreseen.

The Church of Sri Lanka and the Methodist Church, Sri Lanka are members of the WCC, as is the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, which belongs to the WCC as an associate council. Besides the Church of Sri Lanka and the Methodist Church, the Baptists, the Salvation Army and the Reformed and Presbyterian churches are also represented on the National Christian Council. 7.5% of the mainly Buddhist population of 18.5 million people are Christians.

Members of the delegation:
Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC
Dr Marion Best, United Church of Canada
Mr Mathews George Chunakara, WCC
Mr Clement John, WCC (Sri Lanka only)
Mr Bernt Jonsson, Mission Covenant Church of Sweden (Sri Lanka only)

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, 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.