WCC NEWS: A newsletter of the World Council of Churches, July 2001, Number 06

Inside issue number 6
July 2001
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Formulating practical steps to eradicate all forms of racism worldwide will be the focus of the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, 31 August-7 September, in Durban, South Africa. The conference will address sources, causes and contemporary manifestations of racism; prevention, education and eradication measures; provision of effective remedies, recourse and redress; and strategies to achieve full and effective equality globally.

In preparation for the conference, the World Council of Churches (WCC) visited churches and partner agencies in South Africa, 19-24 June, in an effort to develop a greater understanding of South Africa’s situation as regards racism. The visit aimed at finding ways for continued coperation between the WCC, the South Africa Council of Churches (SACC) and the Diakonia Council of Churches in Durban, and at witnessing the churches’ struggle and commitment to eradicating racism.

"WCC will continue to work for the eradication of all forms of racism. The visit to South Africa and consultations with church leaders there made it clear that the legacy of apartheid - racism - is alive and thriving. It reflects the urgency of the situation, which is connected to racism situations globally. The cooperative efforts of governments, churches and civil society organizations worldwide is of paramount importance to its eradication," said WCC programme executive for combating racism, Marilia Schüller.

Stopping violence against women

Within the Decade to Overcome Violence, WCC is working along with Christian world communions to facilitate a process of consultation, information-sharing and resource-gathering on violence against women. An initial consultation in Dundee, Scotland, 23-28 August, will reflect on all forms of violence, with a specific focus on the theological dimension. It will also seek to affirm the efforts of Christian world communions to continue the process of networking and open dialogue.

According to Aruna Gnanadason, WCC programme executive for women’s programmes, "violence against women continues to be a priority concern of the Decade to Overcome Violence, following up on what was done during the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. The WCC will continue to work with churches on this issue, this time through world communions, in an atmosphere of creative engagement, affirming the work of those churches which have responded with conviction. We are looking towards the next WCC assembly, where we hope the churches can commit themselves to a strategic plan of action to overcome violence against women."

A service at the church of All Saints,
near Novosibirsk

Representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its member churches and a representative of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) met the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in June to discuss two pastoral documents adopted by the ROC Jubilee Bishops’ Council last year. These were entitled "Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church towards the Other Christian Confessions" and "Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church".

They were prepared in an atmosphere of collaboration and open dialogue by committees headed by Metropolitan Philaret of Minsk, chairman of the Theological Committee of the Holy Synod, and Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations.

Discussions at the June meeting focused on Christian ethics and secular law, international relations, bio-ethics, church-state relations, and problems of globalization and secularism. Bishop Eberhard Renz of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) said the outcome had been positive. He also stressed that, despite the internal nature of the documents, the Russian Orthodox Church was open to discussion and comments from other Orthodox churches as well as from WCC and CEC member churches.

"Discussion on these pastoral instruments is important. The Social Concept paper represents discussions at all levels of the church. This is an example of how member churches, through the use of scripture, tradition and open dialogue, can continue to contribute to that formulation of visions and policies which help wider Christian society," said WCC programme executive Teny Pirri-Simonian.


Children with amputated limbs are
a part of the tragedy of Sierra Leone

"We will work together to encourage the heads of state of our three countries to hold a joint meeting as a way to resolve the current conflicts. We call our respective governments to review their commitments to implement existing regional treaties and agreements regarding mutual non-aggression." These were the first statements in a joint declaration agreed to by religious leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone gathered at an April interfaith consultation on peace, security and reconciliation in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to address the continuing conflict and instability in the Mano River sub-region.

Hosted by Sierra Leone’s Council of Churches and Inter-religious Council, the consultation was sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), World Conference on Religion and Peace, All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), and Fellowship of Councils and Churches of West Africa (FECCWA). Fifteen observers from Sierra Leone’s Christian and Muslim communities were also present. Major concerns emerging at the meeting were advocacy with heads of states, border stabilization, and refugees and internally displaced people.

Melaku Kifle, WCC programme executive for uprooted people, said: "A seed has been planted by the religious groups on fertile ground. It is now for all of us to nurture and enable it to grow and spread throughout Africa." A follow-up committee has been formed. Thus far, the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone have agreed to the proposed joint meeting.


"We don’t agree on Kyoto but we do agree that climate change is a serious issue and that we must work together," said President Bush at the EU summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, on his refusal to commit to the Kyoto Protocol. This is an international treaty designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent by the year 2012. The US president’s refusal to sign the treaty has been met with disapproval and strong criticism globally.

"Millions of people are already suffering through increasing droughts, flooding and rising sea levels. Yet Bush thinks voluntary actions alone are an adequate response after rejecting even the modest reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol," says Dr David Hallman, coordinator of the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) climate change programme. Dr Hallman adds that US plans to address this issue cannot be taken seriously.

Bush has referred to "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global warming". However, according to Hallman, the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the report of the US National Academy of Sciences, done at the president’s request, clearly state the reality and seriousness of global warming.

Bush has, in the past, indicated that it would be harmful to the US economy to scale back on burning fuel, and it would seem that this has influenced his decision. "Clearly the Bush administration’s actions are determined more by the economic and political leverage of the fossil fuel industry than by concern about the impact of climate change on vulnerable peoples and eco-systems or by growing scientific consensus," says Hallman.

Coinciding with the EU summit, an ecumenical service and climate change workshop were sponsored in Gothenburg by the Church of Sweden and the Christian Council of Sweden. Church environmental representatives from throughout Europe had also written to the Swedish presidency of the EU supporting the climate change objectives contained in the proposed EU Sustainable Development Target. A letter from the European Christian Environment Network (ECEN) strongly urged the EU presidency to give leadership on the ratification and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Swedish prime minister Göran Persson, host of the talks, gave assurances that the EU would pursue the treaty without the US. "Kyoto is not meaningless without the United States because it is just the first step. We have to go ahead beyond Kyoto," he added.


The World Council of Churches (WCC) has denounced the act of violence launched against worshipping members of a Roman Catholic church in Baniarchar, Bangladesh. In this vicious attack, ten people were killed and over 30 others injured by a bomb planted by as yet unknown assailants.

In a 12 June letter to Ambassador Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Rev. Dwain C. Epps, WCC team coordinator and programme executive, expressed condolences for the loss of life, and supported the full enquiry being undertaken by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"This", he said, "attests to the will of your nation to hold firmly to the principles and practice of religious tolerance and is a means of assuring that respect for the rule of law will reign."

During the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010), the WCC is stressing that religious bigotry must be eradicated if the welfare of believers of all faiths, and indeed of the public at large, is to be protected.


The second in a series of yearly pan-African seminars - aimed at providing a channel for African religious scholars on the continent and in the diaspora to discuss religion and poverty - takes place 16-29 July in Kenya. The first seminar of this four-year series was in Ghana. Others are planned for South Africa and Jamaica. The series culminates with an international conference in the United States in 2004.

The idea for the seminar emerged from a book by Christian social ethicist Peter Paris, The Spirituality of African Peoples: The Search for a Common Moral Discourse. Participants are working on a volume of essays both from the author’s African American context and from the wider African world; and the establishment of an international academy for the study of religion and society among African people throughout the world.

Rev. Dr Nyambura Njoroge, the WCC’s programme executive for ecumenical theological education, says: "From Professor Paris’s perspective, historically, pan-African discussions have focused on political, economic and liberation issues. But the religious perspective has always been omitted. These seminars therefore provide an avenue for continuing the discussions on pan-Africanism but with the incorporation of religious issues. They also focus on poverty, as this is a common thread of major concern for Africans on the continent and in the diaspora."


The Rev. Dr Ofelia M. Ortega, principal of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba, recently received an ethics award from the Felix Varela Center for her contributions as a liberation theologian and to women’s work in Cuba and Latin America. Dr Ortega, a former WCC staff member, has been principal of the seminary since 1997.
She said she was honoured to receive the award, and was especially pleased to note that, this year, 23 persons will be graduating from the seminary - the largest number in its 55-year history.

A recent spate of violence in south Burundi has claimed the life of Dr Martin Mabunduguru, head of the development department of that country’s national council of churches. Two others also lost their lives in this attack as they returned with Dr Mabunduguru from Makamba where he had been facilitating a seminar on gender and development.

The government of South Korea has appointed former WCC Asia desk staff member, Dr Kyung-Seo Park, human-rights ambassador. Dr Park, a professor of Sung Kong Hoe University, will be responsible for diplomatic missions aimed at publicizing the country’s programmes to improve human rights.
He will also take part in international conferences to assist Seoul’s diplomatic activities regarding the global advancement of human rights.

"A person of respect, courtesy and faith... hard-working and devoted," were words used by the president of Tahiti, Diana Tere, to describe the late Rev. Ralph Tainaore. Tainaore, who was the general secretary of the Evangelical Church of French Polynesia, was also recently elected president of the Community of Churches in Mission (CEVAA). He was 47.


Since the World Council of Churches (WCC) assembly in 1998 in Harare, member churches have continued in a pro-active approach to challenges posed by economic globalization and are convening a series of global conferences and consultations. These are aimed at exploring the realities of their economies with a view to developing appropriate alternatives to globalization.

Entitled "Economic Globalization: The Island of Hope", the next consultation takes place in Nadi, Fiji, 12-17 August. It will bring together participants from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean, North America, Latin America and the Pacific. This follows recently concluded consultations in the Pacific region in May and in eastern and central Europe in June. "Globalization in the Pacific is like a tidal wave that strikes with a powerful force, dominates and suppresses developing new forms of life," the Pacific churches stressed.

According to Rogate Mshana, WCC programme executive for economic justice, "The basis of economic globalization has to be challenged as it has many negative consequences. We have to come together to find alternatives which underlie the vision embodied in the Oikoumene - the unity of humankind, with justice for all - and it is here that our member churches have an important role to play." The WCC is working on a theological analysis of alternatives to economic globalization in preparation for its next assembly. Consultations are planned for Western Europe, Latin and North America, and Africa in 2002 and 2003.


The WCC general secretary, Dr Konrad Raiser:

  • Visited the Autocephaeous Church of Albania, 11-15 July. In Albania he visited various church projects and initiatives.
  • Will visit Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, 14-26 August. The invitation is from the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa. Discussions will focus on furthering the quest for peace in the region.

    Guest editor for this issue of WCC News is Allison Bidaisee, regional communications/public relations officer of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC). Allison is in charge of the CCC’s quarterly newsletter, Christian Action.

    She also coordinates a regional drug demand reduction programme which is a joint initiative with the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).

    As the recognized regional ecumenical organization of the Caribbean, CCC is the development agency of 34 member churches. According to Allison, CCC focuses on achieving holistic development by implementing several complementary programmes. These include HIV/AIDS intervention, family life development, regional violence mitigation, disaster management, food security and uprooted peoples.

    Recent Publications

    Philip Lee, ed.
    Challenges Facing the 21st Century

    Stories from all over the globe of efforts towards reconciliation, accepting the "other" as one's neighbour and developing a "culture of dialogue". Produced in cooperation with the World Association for Christian Communication, London.
    110 pp, CHF15.-, USD9.95, GBP6.50, Euros 9.95

    The Ecumenical Review, April 2001
    An introduction to the Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010, and a discussion of situations of violence around the world.
    164 pp, CHF12.50, USD7.95, GBP5.25, Euros 7.95

    Lothar Bauerochse
    Inter-church partnerships as ecumenical communities of learning

    The history of the concept of "partnership", a study of four bilateral partnerships between German and African churches, and some guidelines for the future. Published in cooperation with the Association of Protestant Churches and Mission in Germany (EMW).
    204 pp CHF22.50, USD14.90, GBP9.80, Euros 14.90

    Ron O'Grady, ed.
    Celebrating a World of Christian Art

    Colour illustrations of 20th-century paintings by artists from countries around the world.
    Co-publication with Pace, New Zealand; Orbis, USA; Novalis, Canada. 107 full colour illustrations, 52 black/white, Hardback, 160 pp, CHF49.50, USD29.50, GBP21.50, Euros32.50

    Dube Shomana, ed.
    African Women and the Bible

    Methods featured include storytelling, post-colonial feminist reading, womanhood/womanist reading, reading from and with grassroots communities.
    Co-publication the Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, Ga., USA - 264 pp, CHF39.50, USD24.95, GBP17.50, Euros 26.50

    WCC News

    Produced by:
    WCC Public Information Team

    Guest editor for this issue:
    Allison Bidaisee

    Managing editor:
    Kristine Greenaway

    For further information write to:
    WCC Communication
    P. O. Box 2100
    1211 Geneva 2

    Telephone: (41-22) 791 6111
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    Design: Marie Arnaud Snakkers
    Printed in Switzerland
    Original: english


    Mr Jagup Selimovski, Director of Religious Affairs (Islamic Union of Macedonia), right, with Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kichevo (Macedonian Orthodox Church) at the round table meeting.
    "We affirm that peace is too important to leave only to the politicians. Peace is also a responsibility of the churches and of the religious community. We strongly believe that answers to problems should always be sought with an open, constant dialogue, based on a complete, mutual respect and on the respect of the differences and the values of other religious traditions and communities." These words are part of a joint statement agreed to by 19 religious leaders from the Federal Yugoslav Republic (FYR) of Macedonia who openly and willingly pledged a united commitment to a process of peace, reconciliation and healing.

    Representing the religious communities of Macedonia’s Orthodox Church, Islamic Union, Catholic Church, United Methodist Church and Jewish community, the leaders gathered for a round table meeting in Morges, Switzerland, 11-13 June. It was chaired by Archbishop Anastasios, head of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. Convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in cooperation with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and with the assistance of the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation (MCIC), this meeting came amidst continued tensions in Macedonia.

    Such a unified front of the religious leaders is a step towards a much-needed peaceful resolution. "The confrontation between the Macedonian military and the ethnic Albanian rebels has led to widespread displacement of civilians and the risk of a humanitarian crisis in some parts of the country," says Alexander Belopopsky, WCC programme executive for Europe. He added that the violence "raises the risk of broader inter-ethnic and inter-communal violence and threatens the multi-cultural character of the society".


    "The Joint Working Group (JWG) saw some ways in which some churches - Protestant and Roman Catholic - have been struggling to overcome stereotypes and situations of alienation. While it is expected that this experience of listening to the work of churches in a specific situation will have an impact on the way in which the JWG operates in the future, the insights and experiences of those invited to address the meeting will also help to clarify the understanding and practice of ecumenical dialogue itself," said World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order team coordinator, Rev. Dr Alan Falconer. He was speaking of the second plenary meeting of the JWG between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the WCC, held in Dromantine, Northern Ireland, 25-31 May. Moderators were Bishop Mario Conti, Roman Catholic bishop of Aberdeen, Scotland, and Bishop Jonas Jonson, Lutheran bishop of Strängnäs, Sweden.

    The plenary agreed on a process and methodology for work related to the ecclesial consequences of mutual recognition of baptism, and reviewed an interim report on the sub-committee which assessed national and regional councils of churches.

    The JWG also visited Armagh and Belfast to familiarize themselves with the present situation. These visits were preceded by plenary briefings on violence and sectarianism in the region and participants also looked at initiatives to address the situations by churches in Ireland. The next JWG plenary will take place May 2002 in Sweden.


    "United To Serve", the watchword of the Cuban Council of Churches, describes the sentiments expressed by participants in the Council’s 60th-anniversary celebrations. Invitees and participants all acknowledged the need for continued collaborative efforts towards achieving a better future, lasting peace and justice for all.

    This message was stressed by Dr Reinerio Arce Valentín, president of the Cuban Council of Churches, and Rev. Dr Emilio Castro, former general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Both leaders reiterated the important role of the church in the community, the need for deep reflection by the church, families and society at large, and the need for unified, sustained efforts towards eradicating violence and finding lasting peace for all humankind. During the celebrations, the Council also took the opportunity to launch the Decade to Overcome Violence campaign in Cuba.


    In supporting efforts for a negotiated peace process in the Holy Land, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser has convened an international ecumenical consultation, 6-7 August in Geneva, "to strengthen broad international ecumenical support for a comprehensive peace based on justice and security" for the Palestinian and Israeli people. This will specifically focus on providing space for open sharing, consultation, joint planning and strategizing, and facilitating better coordination and cooperation in the future.


    Young people worldwide who are interested in the ecumenical movement and want to meet, discuss, share and learn from each other can now do so via the WCC youth ecumenical website. The website seeks to strengthen the ecumenical youth movement among young Christians across different cultures.

    Designed to complement already existing regional and denominational-based networks, the WCC youth website includes upcoming events, discussion boards and Bible studies. Links are also provided to the other ecumenical organizations and, by extension, their youth sites.

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