WCC Assembly concludes in South Korea
The problems of politicization of religion, rights of religious minorities and stateless people, peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula were the subjects of statements adopted on Friday at the end of the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea. While newly elected officials are already looking ahead to the work of the next Assembly, to be held in seven years’ time, thousands of participants are heading home, pondering crucial question of how to build on the momentum of this unique meeting once they’ve returned to their own parishes, communities and places of work.
As we left the giant glass and concrete conference hall, protesters were still waving loudspeakers and leaflets, denouncing the WCC for reasons ranging from listening to the voice of gay Christians, to engaging in dialogue with those who don’t claim Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Inside, teams of volunteers were already taking down the huge green and blue banners bearing the dove logo and the words “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” In the corridors, clusters of clergy, in hoods, habits or high-heeled shoes were still sharing ideas to take back to their home churches, while young Christians from all corners of the globe were snapping a few last photos to try and capture the unique spirit of this 10-day Assembly.
Nowhere in the world are so many Christians of different denominations called to work, worship and pray so intensely together for a common vision that can erode ancient prejudices and promote the values at the heart of our shared faith in a loving Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Quoting from Pope Francis’ greeting at the start of the Assembly, this meeting marks a vital way of consolidating “the commitment of all Christ’s followers to intensified prayer and cooperation in the service of the Gospel and the integral good of our whole human family.”The public statements adopted at the end of the encounter reflect the most urgent areas where the WCC – its members and partners – are now committed to stepping up the struggle for greater justice and peace: in the Middle East and other places where Christians lack full religious freedom, in war-torn Congo, or here in Korea, where we witnessed first-hand the continuing legacy of conflict and division. A statement on peace calls for the banning of all weapons of mass destruction, another highlights the need to protect the rights of stateless people, while delegates also called for reflection on the centenary of the Armenian genocide which will be marked in two years’ time.
Finally, a concluding message from this 10th Assembly urges all people to join the pilgrimage of justice and peace, tackling together the most urgent political, economic, ecological and spiritual challenges facing our world today. While participants may not always agree on which issues to place at the top of the ecumenical agenda, there is no doubt that this gathering has generated – to use the Pope’s words again – “a new impulse of vitality and vision” on the part of all committed to the sacred cause of Christian unity.
Vatican Radio (Nov. 9, 2013)