The top official of the World Council of Churches has praised the Egyptian people for demonstrating that change is possible through nonviolent means.
“The last weeks have seen the people of Egypt moving together towards justice and democracy,” the WCC’s General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, told a 16 February meeting in Geneva. “It is a miracle and an encouraging sign for all of us that justice and freedom can be established through peaceful and non-violent actions.”
He said that the WCC – the world’s biggest church grouping – would continue its reflections on contributing to democratic processes and to building sustainable justice and peace.
“The strong desire for changes we see now in many countries in the Middle East is a sign of how important it is to have political and democratic rights respected, and to have a focus on the wellbeing of the people in terms of the right to food, work and freedom to worship safely and without fear,” Tveit said elsewhere in a report presented to the meeting of the WCC’s main governing body, its central committee.
A Norwegian Lutheran theologian, Tveit was addressing the first meeting of the committee since taking up his WCC post in January 2010. The Geneva-based WCC groups 349 churches, mainly Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant.
In his report, Tveit spoke of the importance of Christians working with people of other faiths. “This is not an optional luxury for any of us,” he stated.
Tveit praised the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians, Pope Shenouda III, for urging Christians not to retaliate after a lethal bomb attack at the New Year on a church in Alexandria. Pope Shenouda had said Christians should not follow the “logic of revenge and hatred”, noted Tveit.
“This will stand as an outstanding example of the prophetic message of the church for just peace, inviting all peoples of faith to overcome violence,” said the WCC leader, who visited the Coptic leader in Egypt in January.
“I was also told about the positive effect it had on Muslim-Christian relations,” he said. “The churches should be part of discussions on how to protect everyone from violence and how to overcome injustice, how to build a just peace for the future.”
The 16-22 February 2011 central committee meeting takes place in advance of a WCC gathering called the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation that is expected to bring about 1000 people to Jamaica in May.
“This event will manifest and strengthen our common efforts towards the ambitious goal of overcoming violence,” said Tveit. The IEPC marks the culmination of a “Decade to Overcome Violence” launched by the WCC in Berlin in 2001.
The full text of Tveit’s report can be viewed here: www.oikoumene.org/index.php?id=8376
© Stephen Brown is a Geneva-based journalist and writer. He is reporting for Ekklesia from the WCC central committee.