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Celebrating the life of an ecumenical champion for economic justice: Rev. Malcolm Damon

Celebrating the life of an ecumenical champion for economic justice: Rev. Malcolm Damon

Rev. Malcolm Damon. Photo: WCC EAA

11 September 2019

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

Rev. Malcolm Damon, ecumenical champion of justice for the economy and the Earth, and a son of South Africa, passed away on 8 September.

Damon was a founding member of the Economic Justice Network formed in 1997 to serve the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, consisting of 12 national Christian councils in southern African nations. In 2001, he joined Economic Justice Network as its executive director. Under his leadership, the network became a leading advocate in the southern African region for a fairer global trading system, tax reform and climate justice.

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed sadness at the loss of Damon and appreciation for his legacy. “We honour him as a church leader who worked ecumenically to demonstrate the importance of church leaders being involved in bringing the justice agenda to all God’s people and creation,” said Tveit. “His powerful legacy as an activist, minister and theologian in the ecumenical movement will outlive him.”

Damon played an important role in establishing the Alternative Mining Indaba, an annual platform that amplifies the voices of communities impacted by the extractive sector and seeks accountability from large mining corporations for environmental and social damages.

He studied theology at the University of the Western Cape (South Africa) and Princeton Theological Seminary (USA), specializing in economic justice and ethics.

Damon served the WCC as a member of several reference groups focusing on poverty, wealth and ecological debt. He was part of the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance's Global Trade Strategy Group from 2005-2008 and served as the chairperson of the Food Strategy Group from 2009 to 2012.

“He was a global leader who challenged and put into practice, the role and responsibility of the church in building a more just and sustainable world,” said Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary. “We will deeply miss his presence, but the seeds he has sowed will continue to grow and flourish."

“Malcolm was a passionate, dedicated, and effective campaigner for social justice. He understood and lobbied strategically on global and regional policies and practices as well as designed and implemented local and national campaigns on land, mining, trade, and food justice,” said Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. “He was a vital force in the many campaigns undertaken by ecumenical networks and an essential contributor for its successes,” he added.

Athena Peralta, programme executive of WCC for economic and ecological justice, reflected: “Malcolm approached the struggle for justice in an integrated manner and addressed inequality, economic racism, climate change, social exclusion, food sovereignty, land restitution and redistribution as a continuum. Amidst struggles, he also brought humour and caring in his interactions that made collective work inspiring and energizing. Our thoughts and hearts are with Denise, his wife and his daughters, Delia and Meagan and Malcolm's siblings and extended family. Though the ecumenical community has lost an important voice, we are committed to continue his legacy of prophetic service.”

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