FAITH

Nov. 20, 2020

 

In a lively video exchange, Elizabeth Wathuti, founder of Green Generation Initiative and head of campaigns at Wangari Maathai Foundation in Kenya, asks World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Prof Dr Ioan Sauca a key question: “What is your message to children and young people?”

Children walk along an eroded path in Kunderpara, a village on an island in the Brahmaputra River in northern Bangladesh. Severe flooding in August 2017 eroded village farms and damaged houses. ICCO Cooperation, a member of the ACT Alliance, provided emergency food and seeds so that islanders could replant their food crops and restart their lives. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
20 November 2020

Sauca answers during a conversation taped online in honor of the World Children’s Day.

“The future is yours,” said Sauca. “Be bold, be strong. Take into the account the experience of the present church leaders and of the past. Keep what is good but please don’t repeat our mistakes and what has been wrong.”

Sauca continued: “You are the ones who are shaping the society. This pandemic has just shown us that humanity is one humanity. So, as you imagine the future, don’t let religion, or color, or gender or anything else divide your thinking and divide humanity. Because at the end of the day, the purpose of God in Christ was to save, to unite, to reconcile all of humanity, the whole of creation, into unity.”

Wathuti, in turn, answered a question from Sauca: “What do you mean by responsible stewardship and how do you see the role of youth and young children?”

Wathuti had a ready answer: “Responsible stewardship is about the entire human race being mindful of how we will leave this planet for the next generations. I do believe that church leaders, and the church in general, and the World Council of Churches have got a great responsibility—and a special one for that matter—to spread the message of responsible stewardship. We are called to be responsible stewards, and the young people and the children of today are calling for climate justice and a livable world secured for them. And I do believe that the church and the World Council of Churches can unite the people to stand up for climate action and also to stand up for nature.”

Sauca said Wathuti and all young people represent a lot of hope for the future. “I encourage you to go on with these values and create a future which is much better than ours,” he said.

Oct. 27, 2020

Upon the 20th anniversary of the UN Resolution 1325, the question is still being answered as to whether women’s important work in peace and security is getting the visibility it deserves.
Maribel David Galiano, president of the community board of San José de León in Mutatá, Antioquia, Colombia, leads a conversation with other community members in November 2018. Following the 2016 peace treaty between FARC and the Colombian government, a group of ex-combatant families purchased land in the territory of San José de León, to settle down and live peacefully alongside existing residents. Photo: Albin Hillert/LWF

Upon the 20th anniversary of the UN Resolution 1325, the question is still being answered as to whether women’s important work in peace and security is getting the visibility it deserves.

Resolution 1325 recognized the brutal, disproportionate reality of conflict for women and girls around the world, and also recognized the importance of their equal participation in all aspects of peace and security.

The Non-governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, of which the World Council of Churches (WCC) is a part, wrote an open letter in October to the UN calling on all member states to prioritize women’s meaningful participation in all aspects of peace and security, prior to the annual Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security on 29 October.

“Among the statements delivered by the over 138 women civil society leaders from 32 countries to the UN Security Council so far, women’s equal participation has been a central demand,” the letter reads. “Full, equal and meaningful participation means direct, substantive and formal inclusion of diverse women so that they can influence the outcome of negotiations and other processes and their implementation.”

The letter points out that participation without the ability to influence the outcome is not participation—it is observation. “Ensuring meaningful participation requires dismantling systemic gender inequality and discrimination; addressing barriers to participation, including patriarchal structures, sexual and gender-based violence and lack of access to healthcare, and the inaccessibility of information about, communications within, and spaces where peace processes take place; and proactively ensuring that diverse women are included.”

Women human rights defenders today face increasing repression around the world. “Threats and attacks on human rights defenders and peacebuilders are unacceptable and serve as a deterrent to their participation and leadership, especially in contexts where women must already overcome cultural, political, economic or other barriers to entering public life,” the letter reads. “It is therefore essential that their integral, independent role in promoting human rights, preventing conflict and ensuring peace is recognized and defended.”

The letter calls for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of peace and security.

“As the international community takes its next steps to address new challenges to peace and security, including climate change and public health crises such as COVID-19, it is critical that all processes prioritize women’s participation,” reads the letter. “Women’s direct and formal participation can be achieved by prioritizing, resourcing and actively supporting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all their diversity in all aspects of peace and security, including conflict prevention efforts, peace processes and the implementation of peace agreements.”

WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom spoke at an event on 21 October commemorating the 20th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325, hosted by the Centre for Research, Training and Publication at Hekima University and the Hekima Institute for Peace Studies and International Relations.

Abuom reflected that women who have been actively negotiating peace should be more visible in the public eye. “Women’s participation in peace processes is barely acknowledged in formal peace-related spaces, including the media,” she said.

Results of the 2020 WACC-led Global Media Monitoring Project expected early next year will reveal whether there has been any improvement on the patterns seen in the last iteration of the research five years ago. “At that time, we found that women’s voices were muted in news on peace and security; in a sample covering mainstream news media in 15 transitional countries, women were only 13% of the sources and subjects in the stories,” said Abuom. “Women’s experiences and responses were to a significant extent presented through gender stereotyped narratives.”

Oct. 26, 2020

Upon the 20th anniversary of the UN Resolution 1325, the question is still being answered as to whether women’s important work in peace and security is getting the visibility it deserves.
Maribel David Galiano, president of the community board of San José de León in Mutatá, Antioquia, Colombia, leads a conversation with other community members in November 2018. Following the 2016 peace treaty between FARC and the Colombian government, a group of ex-combatant families purchased land in the territory of San José de León, to settle down and live peacefully alongside existing residents. Photo: Albin Hillert/LWF

Upon the 20th anniversary of the UN Resolution 1325, the question is still being answered as to whether women’s important work in peace and security is getting the visibility it deserves.

Resolution 1325 recognized the brutal, disproportionate reality of conflict for women and girls around the world, and also recognized the importance of their equal participation in all aspects of peace and security.

The Non-governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, of which the World Council of Churches (WCC) is a part, wrote an open letter in October to the UN calling on all member states to prioritize women’s meaningful participation in all aspects of peace and security, prior to the annual Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security on 29 October.

“Among the statements delivered by the over 138 women civil society leaders from 32 countries to the UN Security Council so far, women’s equal participation has been a central demand,” the letter reads. “Full, equal and meaningful participation means direct, substantive and formal inclusion of diverse women so that they can influence the outcome of negotiations and other processes and their implementation.”

The letter points out that participation without the ability to influence the outcome is not participation—it is observation. “Ensuring meaningful participation requires dismantling systemic gender inequality and discrimination; addressing barriers to participation, including patriarchal structures, sexual and gender-based violence and lack of access to healthcare, and the inaccessibility of information about, communications within, and spaces where peace processes take place; and proactively ensuring that diverse women are included.”

Women human rights defenders today face increasing repression around the world. “Threats and attacks on human rights defenders and peacebuilders are unacceptable and serve as a deterrent to their participation and leadership, especially in contexts where women must already overcome cultural, political, economic or other barriers to entering public life,” the letter reads. “It is therefore essential that their integral, independent role in promoting human rights, preventing conflict and ensuring peace is recognized and defended.”

The letter calls for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all aspects of peace and security.

“As the international community takes its next steps to address new challenges to peace and security, including climate change and public health crises such as COVID-19, it is critical that all processes prioritize women’s participation,” reads the letter. “Women’s direct and formal participation can be achieved by prioritizing, resourcing and actively supporting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all their diversity in all aspects of peace and security, including conflict prevention efforts, peace processes and the implementation of peace agreements.”

WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom spoke at an event on 21 October commemorating the 20th anniversary of UN Resolution 1325, hosted by the Centre for Research, Training and Publication at Hekima University and the Hekima Institute for Peace Studies and International Relations.

Abuom reflected that women who have been actively negotiating peace should be more visible in the public eye. “Women’s participation in peace processes is barely acknowledged in formal peace-related spaces, including the media,” she said.

Results of the 2020 WACC-led Global Media Monitoring Project expected early next year will reveal whether there has been any improvement on the patterns seen in the last iteration of the research five years ago. “At that time, we found that women’s voices were muted in news on peace and security; in a sample covering mainstream news media in 15 transitional countries, women were only 13% of the sources and subjects in the stories,” said Abuom. “Women’s experiences and responses were to a significant extent presented through gender stereotyped narratives.”

Churches can help change these narratives, Abuom said. “Based on the reach of churches on the ground, the challenges, though many and impactful, can also be mitigated by our input,” she said. “News media should strive to ensure that women’s voices, opinions and issues matter by, for instance, ensuring that women are at least 50% of those interviewed for the stories.”

Oct. 20, 2020

Getting a new website generates the same type of excitement among communication staff as birthday parties do for young children, and like any family celebration, there is something for everybody present in a special ecumenical family.

WCC new web celebration

Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Getting a new website generates the same type of excitement among communication staff as birthday parties do for young children, and like any family celebration, there is something for everybody present in a special ecumenical family.

While everyone is looking at the unveiling of the new World Council of Churches (WCC) website as the end of a long wait, for the staff, it's the start of a new era, and a new way of working globally to interconnect member churches everywhere on the planet.

“It’s a day of joy to see the new website online and welcoming all our visitors from all over the world. This is an important part of the WCC online presence and the result of almost five years of development of online strategies. Interest among member churches, the media and the general public has grown across many channels of WCC communication during 2020. Given this new wave of interest, the website will also serve as a ‘hotline’ for media, increasing the fellowship’s exposure across the world,” said Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication, adding that work is still in progress on the new website, and feedback from visitors is welcome.

One website

“Our major task has been also a fresh presentation of the WCC programmes, providing intuitive ways of navigation in the wide spectrum of WCC work for unity, justice and peace in the world,” said WCC communication officer Ivars Kupcis, who coordinated the project and worked with those developing the tool.

Kupcis explained that the main goal of the new website is offering the WCC fellowship more opportunities for engagement with the content produced by the WCC and the whole ecumenical movement.

The staff's excitement with the new tool is also for those in WCC member churches or new people excitedly discovering the wealth available through the new site.

For fellow communication officer Xanthi Morfi, the new website contributes significantly to her sharing key documents and resources of significant academic and historical value.

"It enables fuller engagement at a global level in the vital work and important reflections of WCC's commissions on Faith and Order and Mission and Evangelism, which are at the heart and soul of the ecumenical movement, " she noted.

Now readers can keep up with the latest news on WCC's activities worldwide or the initiatives of the member churches and WCC programme staff, she said, by linking directly to the wealth of theological reflections produced by WCC’s commissions.

Faith and Order digital collection

"The access to the digital collection of the well-known Faith and Order Papers only gives a glimpse of the treasures," said Morfi, and should facilitate the academic research and study of professors and students, church leaders and commissioners.

“For us, access to knowledge for people from all parts of the world equals empowerment. Just opportunities for education lead to better world societies where the dignity of the human person and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms secure unity and peace,” said Morfi.

Annegret Kapp is a communication officer who works on the website each of her working days and knows a website's practicality.

"We hope people will find it easier to access the wealth of prayer resources collected by the WCC. If you'd like to contribute your prayers, you will be able to contact us more readily; and if you would like to feature within your own website weekly updated prayers for sisters and brothers in other parts of the world, check out the new widget for the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle."

And on the other side of the world, in the United States, Michael West, consulting editor for WCC Publications, explained how the website features an improved presentation of books and journals from WCC Publications, including sample texts and ordering information.

‘Resources for prayer and Bible’

"It also presents the WCC's many ecumenical resources for prayer and Bible study that congregations can employ in their spiritual life and quest for justice," said West.

Lyn van Rooyen, coordinator of WCC Publications, based in South Africa, says, "We hope that some of the recent resources, including Bible studies and materials focusing on health and the environment, will equip faith communities to respond to the challenges of our times.

"We are also excited to have a fully searchable list of the WCC publications on the new website. Many of the materials will also be downloadable and accessible to all who have access to the internet."

For Marcelo Schneider, a WCC communication officer based in Brazil, the new site has a special significance for 2022.

"It brings a section dedicated to the upcoming WCC 11th Assembly, to take place in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2022. Besides practical information and resources on the theme and the assembly symbol, it makes available the official reports of all previous assemblies of the WCC."