World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

25 October 1999


cf: WCC Press Release of 8 October 1999
cf: WCC Press Release of 22 October 1999

A year ago, Hurricane Mitch caused suffering and death throughout Central America, yet the storm also provoked an international response that "demonstrated a wonderful capacity for solidarity, for mutual caring, and for love," the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) declared in a conference here.

The Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser made the remarks during a two-day theological symposium on "Hope in times of reconstruction," held at an ecumenical retreat center outside the Honduran capital.

"In such times of crisis, we discover how our faith binds us in a community with other people," said Raiser, who was invited to Honduras to visit with hurricane victims and to deliver a lecture to the conference.

"In our few days here, we have seen strong and impressive examples of what has already been rebuilt," Raiser said. "These are the best examples of hope, not hope you have to talk about, but hope expressed in action."

The German theologian told participants in the conference that the spirit of God works in the world "to bring the broken pieces of our lives back together and restore a sense of hope, of purpose, and dignity. We have seen this spirit at work in Honduras during these 12 months since the hurricane, a spirit mobilizing people, opening doors, liberating hands and hearts."

Raiser was accompanied to Honduras by a delegation of ecumenical leaders from the region. In the north of the country the group visited a rural resettlement village for 250 families displaced by giant landslides caused by Hurricane Mitch. In the capital, the group visited with families who lost their homes to flooding but have built new homes with the help of the Christian Commission for Development (CCD). CCD is a member of ACT International a worldwide network of more than 75 churches and aid agencies of the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation. In the wake of Mitch and as ACT's local representative, it flew food and medicines to remote communities and cared for victims sheltering in evangelical churches in Tegucigalpa.

The conference was attended by some 300 church leaders from more than some 30 denominations, including dozens of Roman Catholic lay pastors, known here as delegates of the word.

Symposium participant the Rev. Dr. Ross Kinsler, a professor at the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica, discussed the Biblical concept of Jubilee and how church-sponsored reconstruction projects embodied the Jubilee vision in that they offered "the possibility of distributing resources more fairly, creating communities founded on equality, where everyone has schools, health care, and can enjoy life in all its abundance."

The WCC general secretary agreed with Kinsler. "The Jubilee tradition is one of the strongest symbols of this transformation we need, a transformation already begun in the ministry of Jesus," Raiser said. He described "the hurricane of globalization sweeping across the world" as the cause of many human-made disasters today. These disasters "reveal in a most dramatic way the vulnerability and unsustainability of our way of life," Raiser said.

Honduras is the third country the WCC general secretary has visited on this current trip through the Caribbean and Central America. He earlier visited Cuba and Costa Rica. A planned visit to Haiti was canceled when Hurricane Irene closed airports in the region.

Accompanying Raiser on his visit here are Marta Palma, WCC executive secretary for the Caribbean and Latin America; the Rev. Israel Batista, general secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches; Hubert Van Beek, the WCC's executive secretary for church and ecumenical relations; and a group of ecumenical leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Contact: WCC Media Relations Office, Tel. +41.22.791.61.53

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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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.