Pentecost is a call to Christians and all people of goodwill to heed the message of change, and to turn from ourselves to our needy neighbour and planet, say church leaders.
In marking the Christian festival of Pentecost, when the early believers found themselves united across wide barriers of language and culture, the Presidents of the Word Council of Churches (WCC) have sent a message to this effect to Christians throughout the world.
"Today, the call to conversion is more central than ever for every person who seeks to follow Jesus Christ and to discover meaning in life through serving those who suffer, whatever name their suffering may have," the WCC leaders say.
By conversion, they mean a profound change of life, commitment and attitude - the word comes from the New Testament Greek, 'metanoia', meaning a complete turnaround.
"Many are waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit," they say. "There is in today’s world a small group of the humble who seek conversion, asking for forgiveness for faults committed in the past, such as attacks on God’s gift of life through the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
"Hope for conversion can be seen today in the steps some of the 'great' of this world have taken to repair past excesses of pride and domination. Yes, everything is possible for the one who turns to Christ and, in the power of the Spirit, tries to change the plans of those who continue to believe that peace can be bought only under threat of nuclear weapons."
The WCC Presidents' appeal declares: "May the brave souls of this world, who have begun to reduce their stocks of nuclear arms, now continue boldly to make more resources available for the well-being of those populations who have been so devastated and give more resources to those peoples who live in the anguish of hunger and the violence of war, and who thirst to be able to share their knowledge.
"We want to say 'with God, all things are possible!' But, of course we Christians, who have been baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, must not limit our insistence on the need for repentance from the official leaders of the nations or of other public persons. The call for repentance remains well-timed for every one of us, from every state, age, origin: repentance for our inconsistency between what we proclaim and how we behave; repentance for our little faith, for our compromises to the spirit of this world, for our inclination to be indifferent to justice, to solidarity, to sincere love and respect for every human person."
The current Presidents of the World Council of Churches are Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania; John Taroanui Doom, Maohi Protestant Church (French Polynesia); the Rev Dr Simon Dossou, Methodist Church in Benin; the Rev Dr Soritua Nababan, Protestant Christian Batak Church (Indonesia); the Rev Dr Ofelia Ortega, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba; Patriarch Abune Paulos, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; the Rev Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ (USA); and Dr Mary Tanner, Church of England.
The WCC brings together Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican churches worldwide. The Roman Catholic Church cooperates with its work but is not a formal member.
Sunday 23 May 2010 is Pentecost Sunday.