Agnes Abuom. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC 2018
25 August 2020
Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC), contributed to a G20 Interfaith Forum on Africa hosted by KAICIID, or the International Dialogue Centre, dedicated to the facilitation of dialogue between followers of different cultures and religions.
Abuom addressed the specific topic of addressing COVID-19 amidst increasing deforestation, hunger, and international debt.
“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated many of the inequities and injustices that are prevalent,” reflected Abuom. “The reality of living in multi-religious and diverse contexts ensure that our actions and commitments are carried out in a spirit of solidarity and calls us to be accountable to the broader society we live in.”
A day without work often translates to a day without food, Abuom continued. “The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused 370 million (of the 1.3 billion children who are out of school) to miss out on school meals and limit their access to nutritious food and health support schemes,” she said. “In spite of challenges to come together physically and pray together, and many communities lacking the technological capacity to meet and communicate online, the community has responded in a robust and inspiring manner.”
She also addressed deforestation and forest degradation, which continue to take place at an alarming rate. “Over the last 30 years, approximately 60-70 per cent of the new diseases that emerged in humans had an animal origin,” Abuom reflected. “The welfare of the indigenous people who constitute 5 percent of the world’s population is critically linked to the very survival of humanity.”
By respecting and conserving forests, we protect both the diversity of creation, and indigenous people, who are guardians of creation, said Abuom. “Most significantly, we also protect ourselves from deadly new diseases.”
Other speakers at the forum included H.E. Jalel Chelba, head of Civil Society Division, African Union Citizens and Diaspora Directorate; H.E. minister Pauline Tallen, minister of Women and Social Affairs, Nigeria; Cardinal John Onaiyekan, archbishop emeritus, Nigeria; Dr Iyad Abumoghli, principal policy advisor, United Nations Environment Programme; H.E. Dr Martin Pascal Tine, ambassador of the Republic of Senegal to the Holy See.