FAITH

Sep. 23, 2022



Dr Corina Meuhlstedt, a well-known German radio journalist, described what it was like to tell the stories of the World Council of Churches (WCC) 11th Assembly. “The positive atmosphere was my biggest takeaway form the assembly,” she said. “I felt that Christians of very different denominations, some who even live in countries in conflict, were able to overcome prejudice and hostility—at least for a certain time—by seeing Christ in the other.”
https://www.oikoumene.org/news/journalists-reflect-on-telling-the-stories-of-the-wcc-11th-assembly
2 September 2022, Karlsruhe, Germany: H.E. Archbishop Yevstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn (right), a delegated observer of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Deputy Head of the External Church Relations Department of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen (left), a delegated representative to the assembly, is the general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, pose for a photo after a press conference at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Karlsruhe, Germany from 31 August to 8 September, under the theme "Christ's Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity." Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
23 September 2022

For Meuhlstedt, who attended the assembly in person, the word “reconciliation”—part of the assembly theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”—resonated. “I think this what the world needs today, and what Christianity can propose to resolve the recent conflicts,” she said, “so whatever was connected with this was interesting for me.”

For Daniela Rei Visan of the Radio Romania Cultural, the assembly was an opportunity to tell stories of recovering hope, a sense of belonging to a community, and a new direction in our life. “Even though I was not able to be in Karlsruhe in person, I could  feel the atmosphere and followed most of the events due to the hybrid system,” she said. “I was happy to learn about health and healing from a Christian perspective, to judge the individual health and healing in a global, social process.”

Simon Barrow, managing editor of Ekklesia, reflected that telling the stories of the assembly showed that we cannot separate the task of seeking unity in the church from seeking justice and peace in the affairs of humankind.

“The overall theme, and numerous moments of illumination in the assembly, illustrated just how vital ecumenism is, as well as the programmatic work enabled and supported by the World Council of Churches,” he said.

Journalists who covered the WCC 11th Assembly received breaking news and connections to interviews from an onsite press center and an online press center open daily from 7:30 am to 10 pm. WCC Communications hosted more than 18 media events during the assembly with daily media orientations at 8:15 am and 4:15 pm, and daily press conferences at 11:15 am plus thematic press briefings in the late afternoons, all livestreamed in four languages.

“Media is very important to the ecumenical movement now and in the past, as they are conveying information through their storytelling,” said Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of Communication. “Media has always been very present at each assembly—for example, more than 700 media covered the 4th WCC Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968. In Karlsruhe, Germany, at least 360 media were accredited but many more were able to follow the setup online across the globe.”

We are living in a time when the world needs—and even demands— that churches, media and communicators use their prophetic voices. “Know something that people want to know about, say something that people have an interest in understanding – most important, be authentic, transparent, inspiring—and be fair and bring hope,” said Ejdersten.

WCC 11th Assembly resources (https://www.oikoumene.org/about-the-wcc/organizational-structure/assembly#resources)

Videos of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany (https://www.oikoumene.org/assembly/assembly-live)

Photos of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany (https://oikoumene.photoshelter.com/galleries/C0000VFYoZ6eMlZc/WCC-11th-Assembly-Karlsruhe-Germany)

Virtual 360º experience of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe (http://contactgps.ch/360karlsruhe)

WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany (https://www.oikoumene.org/about-the-wcc/organizational-structure/assembly)
See more (https://www.oikoumene.org/)

Sep. 15, 2022

Can inter-religious encounters and dialogue help address challenges and conflicts? Can representatives of different religions act together for peace?
https://www.oikoumene.org/news/workshop-explores-how-interreligious-dialogue-brings-trust-and-respect
3 September 2022, Karlsruhe, Germany: Participants in the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches were able to take part in a variety of Encounters on the weekend, including a visit to the Gardens of Religion project in Karlsruhe, Germany, a project promoting interreligious cooperation and learning. The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, taking place in Karlsruhe, Germany 31 August to 8 September. Photo: Simon Chambers/WCC
15 September 2022

These crucial questions were raised in a workshop, “Participation and peace through interreligious cooperation,” held in the context of the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe.

Workshop participants found that nearly every religion speaks about peace—yet many conflicts have occurred or escalated when one group tries to establish its religion as a superior one.

The past decade witnessed an increase in religious tensions and sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims in India; Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East; and Muslims and Christians in South Sudan and other countries in Africa. In some European countries, violence involving people from minority Muslim groups is behind social tensions and conflicts.

“This workshop is not intended to develop a conceptual analysis on these issues, but to share good practices resulting from two specific experiences: the House of Religion and Intercultural Dialogue in Puttalam, Sri Lanka; and the House of religion – Dialogue of Cultures in Berne, Switzerland,” explained Heinz Bischel, head of department with the Reformed Church Berne-Jura-Solothurn.

Coming together

The idea of the house in Berne came out when migrations brought many different religions into Switzerland, a traditional Christian country.

“We realized these communities, which did not enjoy support from the state, had to come together in houses, garages, and other inadequate places. Why not have a house with a temple where they can practice their religions and engage in interreligious dialogue too?” said Karin Mykytjuk, director of the house.

The House of religion – Dialogue of Cultures in Berne opened officially in 2014, uniting eight different religions. Since then, it has become a place of encounter and recognition. It has given high visibility to religious minorities and offered a platform for ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, thereby fostering societal cohesion and peace.

A safe space

The idea was cherished by Sri Lankan representatives of different religions living in Switzerland.

The 25-year-long civil war which caused between 80,000–100,000 deaths, according to United Nations estimates, called for an interreligious dialogue that can transform cultural violence into cultural peace, said Sasikumar Tharmalingam, a Hindu priest.

“When the idea of creating a space for interfaith dialogue did not receive a favorable reception from religious leaders in Colombia, the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian representatives decided to launch the program in Puttalam,” said Fernando Emmanuel, a Roman Catholic priest and one of the leaders of the initiative.

In Puttalam, a 45,000-inhabitant city on the west coast of Sri Lanka, a piece of land was purchased in 2017 and the laying of the foundation stone was celebrated half a year later.

Since its establishment, the House of Religion and Intercultural Dialogue in Puttalam has provided a safe space for representatives of different cultures and religions in Sri Lanka to come together for peacemaking dialogue.

“The encounters have helped forge trust and respect for each other and allowed Tamil and Singhalese young people to be educated on human rights matters,” said Emmanuel.

There was consensus that any process of interfaith dialogue should involve at least three elements: getting to know each other is a fundamental premise to begin grappling with conflicts; healing of wounds in a public and safe space so reconciliation is feasible; and educating the new generations so that prejudices, negative perceptions and stereotypes are eradicated.

Photos of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany (https://oikoumene.photoshelter.com/galleries/C0000VFYoZ6eMlZc/WCC-11th-Assembly-Karlsruhe-Germany)

WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany (https://www.oikoumene.org/about-the-wcc/organizational-structure/assembly)
See more (https://www.oikoumene.org/)

Sep. 15, 2022



A new “360 Bossey” debuted at the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly, offering a dynamic tour of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute for those near and far.
https://www.oikoumene.org/news/tour-the-bossey-ecumenical-institute-online-with-360-degree-views
360° virtual tour of the WCC's Ecumenical Institute in Bossey. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
15 September 2022

360 Bossey offers views of everything from the chapel to the tower, from the gardens to the Orangerie where people enjoy conviviality. The virtual tour also includes a look around the library and study spaces—all directed by users at their own pace.

A narrator shares some of the history of Bossey, as well as how the institute endeavors to live as an eco-friendly community.

Fr Prof. Dr Lawrence Iwuamadi, who teaches, among other courses, Intercultural Biblical Hermeneutics at Bossey, said he believes that 360 Bossey brings home the unique Bossey experience for people who have been at Bossey and those hoping to visit this unique place. “It is a wonderful tool and window for presenting the Bossey Ecumenical Institute to the world,” he said.

The creative effort was led by journalist and theologian Michel Kocher, director at Médias-pro.

“The development of 360 Bossey led us to develop significant improvements to the software, which we have been able to use in other versions,” he said. “Presenting it to the public in the Networking Zone in Karlsruhe was an emotional moment for me.”

As Kocher saw the images on a big screen, and the reactions of the audience, he newly realized the possibilities of animations. “It allows you to choose your animation freely, to navigate according to the audience,” he said. “And the fact that we were able to work with the nice Bossey team gave us a boost.”

Go on the 360 Bossey virtual tour (https://gps.contactgps.ch/rungps/0ZPVICVEVM)

WCC's Ecumenical Institute in Bossey (https://www.oikoumene.org/what-we-do/the-ecumenical-institute-bossey)
See more (https://oikoumene.org/)

Sep. 15, 2022

In a letter to H.E. Zbigniew Rau, OSCE chairman-in-office, and minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, World Council of Churches acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca and Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, jointly appeal for urgent action by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to promote a just and sustainable peace in the Caucasus, following renewed violence in the region in which more than 100 lives have already been lost.
Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
15 September 2022

The latest escalation in conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began on the night of 13/14 September, just days after the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches adopted a Minute on the consequences of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, drawing attention to several lingering and unresolved issues following that deadly and destructive war, and calling for “the start of meaningful dialogue for a just and peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.”

The joint WCC-CEC letter notes that “this renewed armed violence risks further escalation and yet more death and destruction.” The letter observes that “credible reports and analysis suggest that Azerbaijan is seeking – through the renewal of hostilities while the international community is focused on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine – to force Armenia into accepting a settlement on its terms.,” and urges the OSCE “to do your utmost to avert any such cynical misuse of the current geopolitical situation, to avoid further escalation, and to promote more rapid and effective progress towards a just and sustainable peace in the region.”

Joint letter of the World Council of Churches and Conference of European Churches to OSCE in relation to escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh (https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/joint-letter-of-the-world-council-of-churches-and-conference-of-european-churches-to-osce-in-relation-to-escalation-in-nagorno-karabakh)

WCC releases minute on consequences of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war (WCC news, 08 September 2022) (https://www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-releases-minute-on-consequences-of-the-2020-nagorno-karabakh-war)
See more (https://oikoumene.org/)

Sep. 12, 2022



On 8 September, the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee elected Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria as its new moderator. Below, Bishop Bedford-Strohm reflects on the path ahead.
https://www.oikoumene.org/news/bishop-dr-heinrich-bedford-strohm-reflects-on-new-role-as-moderator
8 September 2022, Karlsruhe, Germany: Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, moderator of the World Council of Churches central committee. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
09 September 2022

As moderator, what do you see as your main role?

Bishop Bedford-Strohm: My role as moderator will be theological and spiritual guidance, relationship-building in a very diverse community, and public theology, that is, being a voice for the churches in the global public. To put it in the words that stood over the assembly: My task is witnessing Christ’s love, which moves us to reconciliation and unity.

How has the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly helped spark your momentum toward the church becoming the light of the world?

Bishop Bedford-Strohm: The WCC has been very close to my heart for a long time. After the WCC 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre 2006 and the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan in 2013, this has been the third WCC assembly in which I have participated. Serving on two important committees and moderating a plenary in Karlsruhe has taken a lot of energy. But I received even more energy from the beautiful and joyful worships and from the inspiring encounters that I have had with participants from all over the world. Experiencing how people with such diverse backgrounds and sometimes heavily differing views can still respect each other—and even love each other mutually as children of God—has given me hope that we can sometimes actually really be the salt of the earth and light of the world.

What can the global fellowship pray for you as you begin this journey as moderator?

Bishop Bedford-Strohm: I am thankful for prayers that I may experience what 1 Timothy 1:7 says: “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, but of power, and and of prudence.”

What is your vision for amplifying the voice of young people in the ecumenical movement?

Bishop Bedford-Strohm: We need to listen much more to the voice of young people and, above all, increase their participation. In my own work as a bishop in Germany it has been one of my most encouraging experiences how young people have inspired us as a church with new and creative thinking and acting beyond the traditional ways. I wish for more also in the global ecumenical movement!