Christians asked to stand with victims of oppression, poverty and violence

By agency reporter
November 13, 2008

Christians are called to stand with those who are victims of oppression, poverty and violence, the Rev Elenora Giddings Ivory, director of the World Council of Churches' programme on Public Witness said in advance of the WCC's United Nations Advocacy Week, 16 to 21 November 2008 in New York.

The advocacy week, organized by the United Nations liaison office of the WCC in New York, brings together over 120 people working on advocacy issues in churches, national councils of churches, specialized agencies, regional ecumenical organizations and regional advocacy networks.

This year the group will focus on three advocacy areas: migration, climate change and Sri Lanka. The week will be marked by an overarching framework of "Human Rights at 60 Years", as both the WCC and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrate their 60th anniversary this year.

The declaration is an early example of successful church advocacy. The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, a consultative body of the WCC, effectively pressed for the inclusion of the article on religious freedom – to change one's religion or belief and to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Human rights have been a priority on the ecumenical agenda ever since. The WCC enables victims of human rights violations to give testimony. The WCC contributes to the sessions of the new UN Human Rights Council with written and oral submissions on issues such as religious freedom and intolerance, socio-economic and cultural rights, and issues relating to migration, racism and xenophobia.

“In our work, we try to enact this biblical and theological mandate from our understanding of where our individual faith traditions say we should be, but more importantly where Jesus said we should be", Giddings Ivory said.

If churches want to be heard in the public arena, they need to speak with one voice, Giddings-Ivory said. While this approach is hardly new, it is not easy to implement.

The advocacy week provides a significant moment for churches willing to address questions of power and structural injustice through a concerted and coordinated ecumenical approach to strengthen their networks, agree on priority advocacy issues and develop common strategies.

In addition to sessions where participants will deepen their common understanding of the three key issues, they will have the opportunity to put designated priorities into action in meeting with United Nations member states' missions.

The broad constituency base of churches, firmly rooted in the local but also belonging to a worldwide community, provides an opportunity for advocacy not only at the United Nations but in capitals in nearly every country in the world.

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