A pastoral delegation from the World Council of Churches is visiting Russia and Georgia today, staying through to 7 September 2008. The participants will listen to WCC member churches in both countries, encourage their efforts for peace and visit people displaced by the recent violence as well as church aid programmes.
"We expect this visit to encourage Christians in both countries to keep talking to each other and praying for each other," says Elenora Giddings Ivory, WCC director of Public Witness and Global Advocacy.
She added: "If Christians in Georgia and Russia manage not to allow the divide between their countries to separate them, they may help their governments to move towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict."
The delegation expects to meet with high-level representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church and others. The delegation will visit humanitarian work of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International and its local partners. ACT International is a WCC-backed coordination body for emergency relief.
Members of the WCC delegation are: Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste, Romanian Orthodox Church (head of the delegation); the Rev Jean-Arnold de Clermont, Reformed Church of France, president of the Conference of European Churches; the Rev László Lehel, director of Hungarian Interchurch Aid, on behalf of ACT International; the Rev Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of Public Witness and Global Advocacy, World Council of Churches; and Mr Jonathan Frerichs, WCC programme executive (Middle East and nuclear disarmament).
On 12 August 2008, the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches called for prayers and assistance for those affected by the conflict in the Caucasus, expressing alarm and distress at the use of force in the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The ecumenical organizations affirmed the interventions of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox Church as well as the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, all of which had called for a ceasefire, a negotiated solution to the conflict and urgent relief for those affected.
"We encourage churches around the world to support these sister churches and the international ecumenical emergency appeal initiated by Action by Churches Together," a joint WCC-CEC statement said.