Global news outlet
10 April 2020
Thursdays in Black ambassadors and supporters are calling on us all to protect women who, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are in situations that make them vulnerable to violence.
In many countries, the rise of domestic abuse is being called “a new COVID-19 crisis” as movement restrictions aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus is making violence in homes more frequent, more severe and more dangerous.
In Spain, the emergency number for domestic violence received 18 percent more calls in the first two weeks of lockdown than in the same period a month earlier. French police reported a nationwide spike of about 30 percent in domestic violence. Domestic violence reports in the UK are up by 20 percent. In the US, Rhode Island state police reported domestic violence calls had jumped by 36 percent.
Women also comprise 70 percent of frontline healthcare workforce across the globe, lacking protective gear despite their increased risk of exposure.
Ambassadors speak out
Ambassadors of Thursdays in Black, the global campaign for a world free from rape and violence, spoke out on Maundy Thursday to bring attention to an increasingly dire situation for millions of women across the world.
On social media, through poems and posts, comments and statements, they provided emotional support, advocacy and practical help.
The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, led by president Alison Judd, posted: "We are told to stay at home and stay safe. But for some that feels impossible. Some women, some children, men even, face another risk during this pandemic. They fear the person who lives with them.”
Rev. Dr Anders Göranzon, general secretary of the Swedish Bible Society, reflected: “A person close to Jesus betrayed him. It happens to many vulnerable persons in times of isolation, mostly women and children.”
Rev. Dr Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, noted: "Women continue to be the majority of the most exposed caregivers and low wage workers.” He called for a “faith imperative”: “the new normal must be a world without violence against women.”
Rev. Damon Mkandawire, hospital administrator for the United Church of Zambia’s Mbereshi Mission Hospital, said: “Women who are displaced, refugees, and living in conflict-affected areas are particularly vulnerable.”
The Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America led by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, have posted across social media, “Domestic violence has increased with #StayAtHome” and are publicizing national and local domestic violence hotlines and text helplines.
Hanbeet Rhee, a member of the Ecumenical Youth Council in Korea, stated that, after COVID-19, "we cannot, and should not, go back to that ‘normal society,’ and we need to dream a better society, which loves and protects the weak, especially victims of gender-based violence.”
Concern—and action—for the most vulnerable
With 1.5 billion children now out of school, unemployment rising at a staggering rate, and women more vulnerable than ever to rising rates of violence, we all need to not only raise awareness but take action, urged Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, World Council of Churches deputy general secretary.
“Ensuring that women and children have access to help and places of safety should be a top priority of our governments and our churches,” said Phiri. “We need to put in place protection for the most vulnerable women and children, and share accurate information and resources that will cross national borders and faith lines to get to the communities that are suffering.”
As one ambassador’s post ended, “Wear black this Thursday and pray for God’s protection for everyone.”
WCC reiterates firm commitment to protecting and nurturing children
Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary at the meeting organized by Arigatou International. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC
04 December 2019
During a consortium focusing on nurturing values and spirituality in early childhood, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit reiterated the WCC’s firm commitment to protecting children. His message was read by Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary.
“We have often in this venue addressed the particular needs of children, especially global deficits in healthcare delivery, the need to protect children in their homes and in the churches, and the specific plight of migrant and refugee children," said Phiri.
The consortium, organized by Arigatou International, is being held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva from 3-5 December. The theme is “Nurturing Values and Spirituality in Early Childhood for the Prevention of Violence.”
“Our own commitments in this arena are firm,” said Phiri. “The WCC is strongly committed to buttressing the protection, participation, and well-being of children.”
Arigatou at EC
Participants of the consortium organized by Arigatou International at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC
Nurturing values and spirituality in early childhood goes to the heart of the challenges and gifts that people of faith can bring, added Phiri. “It is the particular genius of this annual consortium to focus your attention and tap your expertise—across disciplines, across organizations, across religious lines, from homes and churches to international fora—on the intimate connections among early childhood formation, conflict resolution or preventing violence, and the prospects for peace,” she said. “We all, whether children or adults, have a vital stake in this work and this future.”
It is incumbent on people of faith to critically examine their own traditions and practices, concluded Phiri. “May your and the consortium’s work find encouragement and energy in your gathering,” she said. “I look forward to learning more about your presentations and discussions as you further explore how fostering values and spirituality can ensure a future of human dignity for all.”
Learn more about Churches´ Commitments to Children (https://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/wcc-child-rights-engagement)
Chilean crisis sparks churches’ alarm and concern.
Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
24 October 2019
As anger and protests in Chile have escalated into violence and caused 18 deaths, the World Council of Churches’ general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has joined other church leaders in calling for a cessation of violence and a mechanism for addressing its root causes.
“I want to express our solidarity with the churches and people of Chile in this situation,” said Tveit. “We fully support the churches in their call for adequate responses to the situation by the government and the people, addressing the root causes for this unrest. In this crisis we see the future of democracy and social justice in Chile at stake.”
After protests initiated by students in Santiago on 16 October over a rise in the price of public transport were met with a strong response by police, the protests widened beyond the students to engage the broader public, workers’ unions and other organizations in several cities, encompassing other issues of concern, including low wages, access to healthcare and economic inequality. Protesters have called for the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera Echenique, despite his mandating an increase in wages and in taxes on the wealthy.
Vandalism and violence have triggered a forceful police response, leading to deaths, thousands of detentions, and a government-declared state of emergency with curfews.
WCC member churches, together with ecumenical partners, have been speaking out about the situation. Calling for peace and condemning acts of violence, they are urging the Chilean government to address underlying inequalities in the country.
Citing widespread economic and social problems, leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chile (IELCH), a WCC member church, pointed to deeper problems sparking the street violence, saying, “What we saw and lived last night in Santiago was the manifestation of a disagreement and silent rage that was contained in the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of our society. And this demonstration is not silenced by repression by the state. It is unfortunate that the government does not have the capacity and willingness to realize that our country is not the oasis of Latin America as the President has declared, but a country with tremendous social inequalities.”
Himself from Chile, Rev. Dr Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, also echoed those convictions, saying, “Difficult and shocking as this is, there are underlying causes that contribute to this eruption of social rage: inequalities and injustices experienced by the people of Chile. Let this be a time to address the root causes. Violence is not the way to solve the issue.”
WCC Faith and Order Commission, Nanjing, China, June 2019, Photo: WCC
14 August 2019
“Come and See,” a theological invitation to the World Council of Churches (WCC) Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace was published in May 2019 and, for the close-knit group who labored to develop it, the journey was life-changing.
The special study group, part of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission, traveled the globe together, discussing in different contexts how to open the doors to common witness with an appreciation of diverse traditions.
The “Come and See” text draws from four different traditions that pave the way for a road on which churches might go on a pilgrimage together.
Sandra Beardsall, professor of Church History and Ecumenics at St Andrew's College, Saskatoon, Canada, is the co-convenor for the study group, and she spoke of her love for the brief glimpse, early in John’s gospel, of Andrew and his friend as they begin walking behind Jesus in a street in Bethany. “Teacher where are you staying?” they ask him. “Come and see,” says Jesus, and their lives are never the same again.
“When the 10th Assembly of the WCC invited the churches on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, it asked Christians to take up the challenge of journeying together in ways that challenge and change us,” reflected Beardsall. "Pilgrimage is both personal and communal. It is prayerful, and it is curious.”
The “Come and See” text invites us to consider the theology that grounds our walk, she said. “It walks us through scripture and history, theological reflection and contemporary issues,” she said. “It reminds us that journeying together builds community and even unity among persons and churches.”
As the group reflected and re-reflected, through many of hours of dialogue to craft the “Come and See” document, their lives, too, would never be the same again.
Co-convenor Rev. Prof. Dr Jaeshik Shin said that, for him, preparing “Come and See” was a kind of pilgrimage in itself. By meeting at different places around the world, the group had an opportunity to consider the document from different contexts.
“During the pilgrimage of preparing 'Come and See,’ our members have travelled together and become one family beyond differences such as religious affiliation, gender, region, and age,” reflected Shin. “As a Faith and Order document, ‘Come and See’ focuses on the biblical, historical, and theological aspects of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. We expect it might be used in the context of theological education and encourage those struggling for peace and justice.”
WCC Pentecost message “To prophesy is to tell the truth”
Sunrise above the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
23 May 2019
The regional presidents of the World Council of Churches sent special greetings to churches around the world celebrating Pentecost.
“To prophesy is to tell the truth,” reads the message. "No rank or class, no race or club, no gender, nor even any religion, has a monopoly on the truth.”
Even humble fisherman can rise to tell the truth, the message notes. “And no falsehood or lie can withstand the sturdy witness to the all-inclusive, healing, indeed transformative love of God revealed to us in Jesus,” reads the message. "These days, we need such prophetic witness to the truth—in our societies and politics, in ourselves and our churches.”
There are no guarantees of objectivity in science or politics or journalism, the message continues. “We must always search out the truth amid competing probabilities and uncertainties and even self-deception,” the text reads. “Yet the deepest truths of our lives—the goodness of being, the dignity of all persons, the integrity of creation, the need for justice and peace--can be tested not only by the integrity of the quest but also by the authenticity of their proponents and, in the end, by the criteria of love.”
At Pentecost, we witness the birth of the church amid a world of many languages and cultures, continues the message. “God’s truth, enflamed by the action of the Spirit, creates a loving community of truth to counter self-serving deceits of the powerful,” the message reads. “No religious claim that incites extremism or terror can be true.”
God’s vision of justice and peace is the nonviolent alternative to empire, the message concludes. “Its all-embracing kinship prizes yet transcends differences, rebukes self-serving falsehoods, shames demagoguery, and battles oppression,” the message reads. "It heals trauma and reaches out to the stranger and the marginalized.”
May 23, 2019