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Participants connect assembly theme to their realities

November 2, 2013

WCC speakers

From left: Michel Sidibé, Mélisande Schifter, Vicken Aykazian, Duleep de Chickera and Wedad Abbas Tawfik at the WCC assembly in Busan. —World Council of Churches Communications

BUSAN, South Korea

A plenary session of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) delved deeply into the question how, in a world faced with violence, conflicts and discrimination, the “God of life” can lead people, communities and churches towards “justice and peace.”

The session which began with greetings delivered by Chung Hong Won, prime minister of the Republic of Korea, who stressed the significance of peace for Koreans, continued with critical theological reflections, presentations on HIV and AIDS and a report on the situation of churches in Egypt.

The session took place on the morning of Oct. 31, focusing on the WCC theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace,” explored from diverse global perspectives.

The assembly runs Oct. 30-Nov. 8 here.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program 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 marginalized 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.

A prayer for the churches

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 turbulences 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 Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church of America.

This plenary session set the tone for the conversations and programs 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.

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