The 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has delved deeply into the question how, in a world faced with violence, conflict and discrimination, the “God of life” can lead people, communities and churches towards justice and peace.
The session on 31 October 2013, in Busan, Republic of Korea, began with greetings delivered by Chung Hong Won, Prime Minister of Korea, who stressed the significance of peace for Koreans.
It continued with critical theological reflections, presentations on HIV and AIDS, and a special report on the situation of churches in Egypt.
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, encouraged the churches to “protect the vulnerable”.
While speaking about sexual minorities, sex workers and other vulnerable communities faced with the grave threat of the HIV pandemic, he outlined the need to challenge taboos which can be a hindrance in access to HIV prevention and health care services.
Sidibé said that HIV positive people in many societies do not know where to go, so they come to the churches and ask for compassion and support.
Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, spoke on the concept of “victim theology”. In his reflection, using the context of his own country, he said that the WCC theme is “mother of all petitions” since the global fellowship of churches are to be sensitive to the plight of marginalised victims. He called the theme a “timely prophetic petition”.
A theology disconnected from victims or in support of war in a violent world robbed of justice and peace amounts to the mutilation of the heart and mind of Jesus, said de Chickera.
Dr Wedad Abbas Tawfik from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt shared how the Egyptian people have born “witness to the God of life” by facing up to turbulence in their country. She called the WCC theme a universal prayer, directly relevant to the Egyptian Christians who, following events of the 'Arab Spring', have worked with their fellow Muslim citizens in pursuit of dignity, peace and social justice for their country.
These presentations were followed by a conversation in which the young theologian Mélisande Schifter responded to the presentations by highlighting the significant role of young Christians in all the struggles of the churches, working together on issues of justice and peace.
The plenary session was moderated by Archbishop Dr Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church of America.
This session set the tone for the conversations and programmes of the WCC assembly for coming days. While presentations in the session stressed the importance of the WCC assembly theme being phrased as a prayer, it also brought into focus social and local realities of the churches.
* Official website of the WCC 10th Assembly: http://wcc2013.info/en
* More from Ekklesia on the WCC and its 10th Assembly: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/wcc