Inside Issue N°7 - December 2001

1700 years of Christianity in Armenia
Solidarity with Southern Africa
Christmas Message 2001

WCC calls on churches to end the illegal occupation of Palestine
Ecumenical connections
Plan of action for peace in Columbia
Dialogue between faith communities on issues of climate change (COP7)
September 11
WCAR - Picture of a Dalit section in a protest march

This issue's Guest Editor
Recent publications
General information on the WCC News

1700 years of Christianity in Armenia

A WCC delegation attended 21-23 September celebrations marking the 1700th anniversary of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Christianity was proclaimed as the state religion by the Armenian King Trdat III in the year 301, making Armenia the world's oldest Christian nation. The celebrations culminated with a blessing ceremony of the Holy Myron (chrism), and the consecration of a newly built cathedral in honour of Gregory the Illuminator. The presence of more than 22 representatives of different churches and Christian organizations at the many worship services gave the participants

Pope John Paul II and his Holiness Garegin II place roses on a memorial for the victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide.

a sense of belonging together across borders. During the anniversary celebrations, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser preached in the Etchmiadzin cathedral.

For more information:

Solidarity with Southern Africa

Violence, HIV/AIDS, and fair land distribution are among the great challenges in Southern Africa today, and the Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), addressed these issues during a 14-27 August visit to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

In South Africa, the WCC delegation attended a national meeting of the South African Council of Churches at which the SACC president Methodist Bishop Mvumelwano Dandala criticized the

WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser and Bishop Joseph S. Shikongo during their visit to the transit refugee camp near Rundu, Namibia, where over 200 refugees cross the border from Angola every week.

government for its failure to deal adequately with the problems of AIDS, racism, and land distribution. While in South Africa, Raiser was also able to meet with the general secretaries of the national councils of churches in Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

In Namibia, Raiser met representatives of both the Namibian and the Angolan councils of churches. The Namibian churches are continuing to work for reconciliation and forgiveness because the wounds of the past have not yet been healed. A government "forgive and forget" programme simply ignores that reality. The alarming increase of violence in their country was the subject of Raiser's conversations with the Angolan church representatives.

The discussions in Zimbabwe focused on a pastoral letter from the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) that openly criticized the government's failure to act in the face of growing violence, the lamentable state of the economy, the problem of HIV/AIDS, and the land crisis. The letter ends a period of silence and ushers in a new phase of churches actively seeking critical dialogue with the government.

The scale of the HIV/AIDS problem in Africa is most evident in Botswana: 38 percent of the population is estimated to be HIV-positive, and the number is expected to increase, seriously jeopardizing the economic, social and political development of recent years. It is estimated that over the next 20 years, one third of Botswana's population will die of the disease. "The extent of the HIV/AIDS problem confronts ecumenical work with new challenges which cannot be dealt with in the traditional way," Raiser said.

"The ecumenical community is challenged not only by HIV/AIDS itself, but also by the ambivalence of many church representatives," said William Temu, executive secretary of the WCC's Africa desk. "While pastors on the ground are dealing daily with life and death issues, church leaders are not giving consistent messages."

Christmas message 2001

"More and more people feel trapped. Time and money have established their merciless rule over us. Time is money, they say. Those with a lot of money never have time, and the poor perhaps have time but no money."

In his Christmas message, the WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, calls on people to pause for a moment and think about a world where

life is dominated by competition, time and money, winning and losing.

"It is in this merciless world that 'the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all' (Titus 2:11). God has come into the world to live among us and to liberate us from the merciless rule of winning and losing, from the yoke of competition and scarcity."

Raiser urges people not to see competition and the pressure to succeed as the most important thing in their own lives, and to understand that there are other qualities that are truly worth striving for. "Our world will not be saved by increasing competitiveness in face of scarcity, but by grace and mercy," Raiser says.

For the full text of the Christmas message:


The president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr Johannes Rau, and WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, in conversation with WCC directors. President Rau visited the WCC on 17 October. Conversations centred on dialogue between religions and confessions, and the role of religion in politics.

Prof. T. K. Thomas - 1925-2001

Prof. T.K. Thomas, a renowned ecumenical leader, creative theologian and distinguished son of the Mar Thoma Church, passed away on 25 October 2001 at Chennai (Madras).
Thomas (or T.K. as he was affectionately known) devoted his life to study and publications in church-related ecumenical bodies. He became associated with the Christian Literature Society (CLS, Madras)

and the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society (CISRS, Bangalore).
For the last ten years of a distinguished career in publications, Thomas served as editor in the publications department of the World Council of Churches.

Rev. Prof Ioannis Romanides - 1927-2001

Father Ioannis Romanides, an Orthodox theologian and member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), died on 1 November 2001 in Athens, Greece.

Internationally known for his commitment to the ecumenical movement and his theological contribution to inter-religious dialogue, he accompanied the WCC from its earliest beginnings and was active in governing bodies and in many other offices in the course of his career. Fr Ioannis Romanides devoted his immense energy and theological knowledge to the cause of Christian unity.

Five African journalists were in Geneva as guests of the WCC 21-28 September. For Daniel Nzakimuena, Angola; Ed Worster, South Africa; Safoudou Kerim, Togo; Taurainashe Manonge, Zimbabwe, and Christine Wamba, Kenya, it was an opportunity to find out about the WCC’s work in Africa. Their visit focussed on the problem of uprooted people, and included a two-day briefing at the UN High Commission for Refugees.

New WCC interns:
From left: Lukasz Nazarko, 21, Poland; Ellan Edwards, 23, Jamaica; Ellis Widen, 25, Indonesia; Anastasia Vasileiadou, 22, Greece; DeLaina Gumbs, 23, USA. The new interns will stay at the Council for eleven months and work with various WCC programme teams. Information about becoming a WCC intern can be found on Visit also the Ecumenical Youth Site at

Bishop Marc Ouellet was appointed secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in March 2001. Bishop Ouellet described his first, 25 October, introductory visit to the WCC as a very positive experience.

New Staff

Luc Hegetschweiler recently took up the post of hotel manager and operations and fundraising coordinator at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey. Born in Bienne, Switzerland, in 1961, Hegetschweiler holds a diploma in hotel management and has international experience in various hotels. He is a member of the Swiss Protestant Church Federation.

Dr Elizabeth S. Tapia will take up a teaching post at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey in January 2002. From the Philippines, Professor Tapia holds a doctorate in philosophy of religion and theology. She is a member of the Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippines and is actively involved in ecumenical theological education there and in Asia, as well as working to enhance the role of women in society. At Bossey, she will focus on teaching courses relating to mission.

WCC calls on churches to end the illegal occupation of Palestine

In a decisive initiative to accompany the churches of the Holy Land in their daily struggle to resist a harsh military occupation using non-violent means, the WCC has established EMPPI, the Ecumenical Monitoring Programme in Palestine and Israel.
The project is part of the wider response framework approved in September by the WCC executive committee, which called on churches to focus their

Identity check at one of the many checkpoints.

attention in 2002 on intensive efforts to end the illegal occupation of Palestine, within the context of the "Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace".

The time for the language of compromise seems to be over, explains Salpy Eskidjian who is responsible for Middle East affairs in the WCC International Relations team. The WCC is taking the lead in coordinating the overall ecumenical response to end the violence of the occupation in Palestine. Initiatives within this include advocacy plans with a focus on the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and international prayer vigils.

The establishment of EMPPI as a first step follows upon calls for the "protection for all our people" by the local churches in Jerusalem. In their most recent common appeal after the reoccupation of parts of six Palestinian towns including Bethlehem, the heads of the Christian communities in Jerusalem called on world church leaders and the international community to help "bring the intolerable situation to an immediate end". During the 13 months of the ongoing Palestinian uprising, the WCC has supported the establishment of an effective international presence to ensure the protection of the human rights of the Palestinian people, deter violence and facilitate a return to peace negotiations.

"EMPPI is a powerful and concrete programme through which churches all over the world can be in active solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel," Eskidjian says. "It will respond to the needs of the local churches and cooperate with other civil society organizations such as human rights and peace groups."

The EMPPI teams' efforts will focus on monitoring human rights violations in sensitive areas such as checkpoints, accompanying people in their daily activities like going to school, work or hospitals and participating in non-violent direct action. Their full scope will be developed by the beginning of 2002. Here, Eskidjian believes, the work of groups such as the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, Peace Brigades International and the WCC's own experience with EMPSA, the ecumenical monitoring programme in South Africa, will be most useful.

The WCC is inviting churches globally to actively join these efforts for a peaceful and just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Further information on the international ecumenical response is available at:

Ecumenical connections

Being church - Orthodox women's voices and visions

Orthodox women from ten countries discussed their vision of "being church" at a meeting in Geneva 11-16 October 2001. The 13 participants talked about their roles in the church, and their views on a "Being Church - Women's Voices and Visions" study. The study was an outcome of the 1988-1998 Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. The meeting also explored new starting points for a critical review of the study.

For more information:

Young leaders work on new ways of communicating

Nine young people from different parts of the world worked together in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva from 22 October to 2 November to draw up guidelines for creating, moderating and using online discussion groups on the Internet. The project is jointly sponsored by the Vesper Society, a US foundation, and the World Council of Churches. The guidelines are designed to help young leaders develop online communities, and promote awareness of the ecumenical movement through an international exchange of ideas.

For more information: contact Kristine Greenaway, WCC Communication director,

Christian - Jewish dialogue in Africa

"Ubuntu" and "Shalom" are two words from apparently very different cultures. Yet, as Jews from all over the world and Christians from French-speaking Africa noted at a meeting in Yaoundé, Cameroon, 8-13 November, they both mean the same thing - harmony and peace. At the forum organized by the World Council of Churches, participants discussed their experiences of violence, challenges in the search for peace, and the common elements in their two religions.

For more information:

Human rights in Latin America today

A 25th anniversary meeting of the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights in Argentina (MEDH) was an opportunity to review the movement's achievements and to plan for the future. Orthodox and Catholic delegates and representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC) attended the 28-31 October meeting in Buenos Aires, and participated in a special worship service and discussion groups with partners and human rights organizations from Europe, North America and other countries of Latin America. Bishop Frederico Pagura, the co-president of MEDH, is one of the WCC's eight presidents.

Common action against HIV/AIDS

Developing a common plan of action to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa was the task facing a global consultation on "An Ecumenical Response to the Challenges of HIV/AIDS in Africa". The consultation, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 25-28 November, was attended by representatives of African churches and ecumenical groups and partner organizations in North America and Europe. "The main concern of the consultation was to concert the efforts of all the ecumenical partners to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS," said Dr Manoj Kurian, executive secretary for health, healing and wholeness in the World Council of Churches (WCC).

See information on WCC AIDS resources:

Orthodox participation in the WCC

Members of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC met 14-21 November for a third plenary session in Berekürdö, Hungary. Decision-making processes, membership issues, common worship and ecumenical methodologies for dealing with social and ethical issues were the main topics discussed by representatives of Orthodox and of other WCC member churches. A report from the meeting will be discussed at the next session of the WCC central committee at the end of August 2002.

For more information:

Perceptions of one another

Tolerance was the watchword at a second meeting of a joint consultative group between World Council of Churches staff and representatives of Pentecostal churches, in which participants engaged in a frank exchange of their perceptions of one another. A visit to the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) and a Pentecostal church service were two highlights of the 27 August to 1 September meeting in Quito, Ecuador. Working group discussions focused on theology and ecclesiology, mission and evangelism and joint procedures. The themes for the next meeting, planned for September 2002, are worship and unity.

For more information:

Churches told to respond to cries of Asian children

A recent consultation on children in Asia called on churches to transform their traditional, charitable, approach in order to respond in a relevant way to the cries of millions of Asia's children. The joint World Council of Churches/Christian Conference of Asia consultation was held in Bangkok, 9-15 November. "Many churches in Asia have been silent when it comes to addressing the issues of children today," said the representatives of Asian church and ecumenical organizations in their final communiqué. They also concluded that "the negative impact of gobalization, especially the process of economic globalization, liberalization of the market, and the trade and investment policies of different Asian governments have added to the present miseries of Asian children".

Full text of the communique is available on:

Plan of action for peace in Colombia

The Colombian churches and ecumenical organizations are calling on all sides to refrain from violence and engage in peaceful dialogue instead of military conflict in Colombia. At a 25-26 September forum in Geneva, co-hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation, participants exchanged information and discussed the way ahead for peace. "We were deeply moved and challenged by the Colombian delegation's conviction that the violent conflict can be overcome through talk and negotiations," said Marta Palma of the WCC team on Regional Relations and Ecumenical Sharing.

The churches' role in the Colombian peace process dominated the meeting agenda. The churches are working on a broad front to raise human rights awareness among their members and are advocating for equality and non-violence. This contribution to the peace process, and their care of displaced people, has shown the faith communities' potential.

International military support for parties in Colombia's conflict (as proposed by the US government in "Plan Colombia") was unanimously rejected by the participants. "This project exacerbates armed conflict in the country," Palma said. "That is why we welcome the European Parliament's rejection of the plan."

Participants made plans for future joint work, focusing in particular on services to displaced persons, support for local peace workers, and education and training within the churches. According to Palma, "The churches have been working on peace-building for a long time. Now, they need support to do further training in mediation, social leadership, human rights, biblical and theological reflection."

Visits to Colombia by European churches and ecumenical partners would help build lasting ecumenical partnerships and focus greater international attention on Colombia, the meeting said.

Dialogue between faith communities on issues of climate change

It is impossible as yet to predict what will come of the political negotiations at future United Nations climate change conferences. For the climate change working group of the World Council of Churches (WCC), it is obvious that ethical questions concerning justice and the protection of the environment and nature must receive more attention in government-level negotiations. All religions, including the Christian churches and the ecumenical movement, should keep drawing attention to this aspect, the group insists.

The same concern was voiced by representatives of Christian and Muslim faith communities at an inter-religious colloquium on religion, environment and climate change sponsored by the WCC at the seventh UN climate change conference 29 October-9 November in Marrakesh, Morocco. For both religions, the preservation of the earth and its ecosystems as a place fit for future generations to live is a compelling concern.

"We believe that God wants human beings, who are an integral part of God's creation, to live in a wholesome relationship with the rest of creation and not cause damage that jeopardizes the survival of species, ecosystems and, indeed, many human beings," says David Hallman, coordinator of the WCC climate change programme.

Members of the WCC group plan to continue and develop the exchange of views between people of different faiths that began at Marrakesh, at future UN climate change conferences. The next conference, scheduled for 2002, will allow members of various religious and faith communities to express their views on the subject.

Government representatives present in Marrakesh indicated their interest in continuing the dialogue at an official level, with cooperation from the WCC. This could be done between climate change conferences in the form of a workshop for government delegates and members of the WCC climate change working group. One government official stressed that concern for ethical issues - and particularly the religious dimension - is essential for the climate change conferences: "The spiritual aspects have been neglected in the political discussions surrounding climate change... Yet they should be the basis of all our negotiations."

Besides dialogue and exchange with other faith communities, the Kyoto Protocol is another focus of the WCC climate change programme's work. Only 40 of the required 55 states have so far ratified the Protocol. The industrialized countries, which produce 55 percent of all greenhouse gases, are still unable to agree among themselves.

"In the coming months, we want to encourage our member churches to bring pressure to bear on their governments and parliaments to accept and implement the Kyoto protocol," Hallman says. "We are still hoping that we can celebrate the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg." Given the many issues that remain to be clarified, it is an open question whether there will really be cause for celebration in September 2002.

September 11

There has been a wide-ranging ecumenical response to the tragic events in the United States on September 11. The WCC general secretary sent a pastoral message to US churches on September 11. He also wrote to the secretary general of the United Nation. These and other responses from member churches are found in the next issue of Overcoming Violence, the newsletter of the Decade to Overcome Violence, and on the web at

Dalit section of a protest march through the streets of Durban during the UN World Conference against Racism; in the centre is Christian Dalit leader Rev. Yesudoss Moses of the National Council of Churches in India and a member of the WCC delegation to the WCAR.


The guest editor of this issue of WCC News is Stefan Kuhnert from Germany. He is a student in media management. After graduating from high school and working as a volunteer in a children's day-care centre, he began media studies at the Technical University of Mittweida. In his third year, after practical experience in the secular media, he joined WCC Communication in September 2001 for a four-month practical internship.

Recent Publications
Gideon Goosen
A Popular Introduction to Ecumenism

Theology and history of ecumenism, origins of the main Christian denominations, introduction to some current issues, discussion of ecumenical ethics and inter-religious dialogues. Questions for group discussions

184pp., Sfr.22.50, US$14.50, £9.75, Euros 14.90

Ron O'Grady
Sexual Abuse of Children and the Church

The church's involvement and the search for solutions.

84pp., Sfr.9.90, US$6.50, £4.50, Euros 6.50

John Bluck
Ecumenical Bible Studies on Divine Generosity

Vividly written and easy-to-read meditations on gospel readings and on the church's seasons.

122pp., Sfr.12.50, US$7.95, £5.25, Euros 8.25

Anna Marie Aagaard and Peter Bouteneff
The World Council of Churches and "the Orthodox Problem"

An introduction to potential solutions to the crisis concerning the relationship between the Orthodox churches and the rest of the Council's membership: the different ecclesiologies involved, and the complex issues surrounding ecumenical worship and common prayer.

130pp., Sfr.13.50, US$8.75, £5.95, Euros 8.75

Marlin VanElderen and Martin Conway
Revised ed.

The WCC's nature as a "fellowship of churches", the origins and other expressions of the ecumenical movement, aspects of the WCC's work and its relations with churches and other organizations, the ecumenical contribution to Christian thought.

December 2001, 206pp., Sfr.15.-, US$9.50, £6.50, Euros 9.95

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