World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
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A SIGN OF ECUMENICAL SOLIDARITY - WCC GENERAL SECRETARY VISITS
CUBA, HAITI, COSTA RICA AND HONDURAS
Raiser's visit to Cuba from 9 to 14 October follows an invitation from the Cuban Ecumenical Council, which visited the WCC in Geneva with a delegation in 1995.
Raiser hopes, amongst other things, to learn more about the situation of the churches in Cuba: "I want to get a sense of the particularities of the churches there and their significance in Cuban society." He says he was specially impressed by accounts of the great "festival of faith" organized by the Protestant churches in Cuba in June this year. In his meetings with representatives of the Cuban Ecumenical Council, Raiser would also like to find out more about how the Protestant churches are trying to overcome the "traditional tensions between ecumenically oriented churches and churches of an evangelical or pentecostal tendency".
Beyond that, Raiser sees the visit by the ecumenical delegation as a mark of the WCC's solidarity with the Cuban churches and the Cuban people "in the very serious economic situation resulting from the increasingly restrictive embargo imposed by the USA". In common with the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America (NCCCUSA), the WCC has repeatedly criticized the USA's embargo policy.
While the WCC has two member churches in Cuba, it has no direct member churches in Haiti. The Anglicans and the Methodists are associated with the WCC through their respective church federations. Until now, according to Raiser, the majority of the Protestant churches in Haiti have shown some reserve towards the organized ecumenical movement. The WCC general secretary hopes his visit to Haiti from 14 to 18 October will enable him "to see the church and social situation at first hand". In his meetings with representatives of the Haitian Protestant Federation, Raiser would like "to explore opportunities for greater openness in working relations". Concretely speaking, he says, the most important thing is to bring ecumenical solidarity and practical aid to the people of this country afflicted by poverty.
Amongst other events, the Haitian Protestant Federation, which is hosting the visit, has planned a public discussion with the WCC general secretary. At the request of the Haitian churches, the discussion will focus on the self-understanding and authority of the WCC, its role in human rights and women's issues and in relation to liberation movements, as well as on the Ecumenical Decade to overcome Violence.
Raiser's two-day visit to Costa Rica will be devoted mainly to learning about theological education there and exploring possibilities for ecumenical theological education.
The last stage on the ecumenical delegation's journey, from 21 to 25 October, is Honduras. The main event here is a theological symposium, involving ecumenical partners, on the theme of hope in a time of reconstruction. One year after Hurricane Mitch, emergency aid and the organization of aid programmes will also be among the topics discussed during the general secretary's visit, as will the social challenges facing the Honduran churches. In Raiser's words, "Given the number and complexity of disasters, we have to learn to be correspondingly comprehensive and complex in our humanitarian response."
WCC member churches in Cuba:
in Costa Rica:
Members of the ecumenical delegation:
Contact: Media Relations Office, Tel: (+41.22) 791.63.98 /
Contact: Media Relations Office, Tel: (+41.22) 791.63.98 / 791.61.53