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International ecumenical team to pay solidarity visit to Sudan

An international ecumenical team of church representatives will pay a solidarity visit to churches and ecumenical organizations in Sudan from 26 March to 2 April. The team led by the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia will split in four groups to visit Darfur, Khartoum, Rumbek and Yambio before joining Sudanese church leaders, women and youth for a three-day conference in Juba.

Young theologians of all stripes submit ideas for the future of ecumenism

More than 50 young theologians from 36 churches in 24 countries have answered the WCC's invitation to submit essays addressing the theme: " Making a Difference Together - Prospects for Ecumenism in the 21st Century". The essay contest is part of the programme to commemorate the Council's 60th anniversary in 2008.

WCC calls for UN fact finding mission to Papua

"Papuans still are subject to torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials by the Indonesian authorities," said the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme executive for human rights, Christina Papazoglou in a 14 March oral intervention before the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is currently holding its seventh session in Geneva. On behalf of the WCC, Papazoglou asked for a fact-finding mission to be sent to the Indonesian province of Papua, one of the word's richest in terms of natural resources, in order to raise the international awareness of the indigenous population's poor living conditions.

World Water Day in Holy Week: pray and act for water for all

This year the World Water Day (22 March) falls on the Saturday before Easter (according to the calendar followed by Western churches). It also culminates the "Seven Weeks for Water" campaign by the Ecumenical Water Network.

Tribute to Chiara Lubich

Recalling the charisma of Chiara Lubich as a "flame of love that began to shine in the midst of the ashes and destruction of war" in a tribute to the founder of the Focolare movement, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia shared the "deep sorrow" of her many friends on the WCC upon the news of her death. Chiara Lubich, who dedicated herself to the promotion of peace, church unity and inter-religious dialogue, died on 14 March aged 88 at her home near Rome, Italy.

Tribute to Lukas Vischer

"The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement have lost an outstanding ecumenist, a man of vision and great passion for the future of life on earth and for a church visibly united in faithfulness to Christ's calling", said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in a tribute to Rev. Dr Lukas Vischer, who died on 11 March 2008 at the age of 81.

WCC expresses sorrow to victims' families, condemns attack on Jewish seminary

"We express our sincere sorrow and sympathy to the families of those who were killed or injured in the shootings last week at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem," said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia on 10 March, joining his voice to those of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. "An attack on a Jewish seminary has a profound impact on all people of faith. The World Council of Churches strongly condemns this attack."

WCC "absolutely condemns" attacks on civilians in Gaza and Israel

Absolute condemnation for the "deadly attacks on civilians by the Israeli military on Gaza and by militants firing rockets from Gaza" was expressed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia today. Claiming that "the path to peace stands open but empty," he called for an end of the "incessant violations of life and of human rights" and of the "blockade that has systematically deprived Gazans of almost all their rights."

UN and WCC general secretaries forge closer partnership on climate change and democracy issues

In a wide ranging discussion at the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) the UN secretary general, H.E. Ban Ki-Moon and WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia found agreement for the two world bodies to work more closely on several global issues, particularly climate change.

WCC says a proposed new treaty to ban cluster munitions must be strong

The WCC Central Committee this week condemned a whole category of peculiarly indiscriminate weapons known as cluster munitions. A cluster munition scatters many small bombs in order to kill and injure people over a wide area. The church debate in Geneva coincided with a world conference on banning the weapons that stirred deep debate between governments and NGOs meeting in New Zealand.

WCC central committee: Making a difference together

The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee closed its 13-20 February meeting after having chosen the venue for the 2011 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, achieved progress towards a broader WCC Assembly, welcomed new member churches, appointed a search committee for a new general secretary and celebrated the Council's 60th anniversary. The WCC main governing body also put its stamp on a number of public statements, policy concerns and programme plans.

Three statements pay attention to elections

Election issues fresh from the headlines formed the focus for three public statements adopted by the World Council of Churches central committee on Tuesday 19 February in Geneva: one each on Kenya and Pakistan, and one on the larger picture of democratic electoral processes.

Search committee for a new WCC general secretary begins its work

Presided by an African woman, with a membership that includes three youth, eight women, four Orthodox and a strong representation from the South, the search committee for a new World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary has already begun to work.

"Like being in the center of the globe"

Nazeli Kandakarjian, a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Holy See of Cilicia) in Lebanon, is serving as a young adult steward at these central committee meetings. She arrived five days late for the training programme due to a series of visa difficulties, ultimately receiving her visa just a few hours before her rescheduled flight on 11 Feb. "It was like in the movies", she said of the last-minute rush. When she finally arrived in Geneva, though--her first trip outside the Middle East--she was warmly welcomed by the other stewards. They were eager to learn about her, and she enjoyed hearing their stories, as well. She said the group bonded quickly and has worked well together. "It's like being in the center of the globe", said Kandakarjian, who was born in Kuwait. "I have people from all over the world telling me their experiences. It couldn't be any better than this. I'm so happy to be here". A friend who attended the WCC Assembly in Porto Alegre in 2006 encouraged her to apply for the stewards programme. She did, because she liked the idea of actually working at the meetings and not just being an observer. Now Kandakarjian is carrying that same message to others. "I would like to encourage everyone to be in this kind of experience", she said, expressing an appreciation for the ecumenical work she was able to witness. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's great". All of the stewards were recognised at the conclusion of the meetings Wednesday with a round of applause and the moderator's thanks, and each received the gift of a WCC watch.

WCC statements address climate change, other topics

The World Council of Churches central committee issued a reminder on the pressing issue of climate change this week, urging member churches and others to "Be stewards of God's creation".

Let us pray

Each working day of the WCC central committee meetings begins with a time of common prayer. These daily prayers are a blend of scriptures, readings, songs, and music of the various traditions represented by the 349 WCC church members. The committee responsible for planning these times of prayer chose to use one of the past WCC Assemblies (nine to date) as the focus each day. Tuesday morning, the Canberra Assembly of 1991 with the theme "Come, Holy Spirit—Renew the Whole Creation" inspired the prayer service.

HIV/AIDS: "We can't be silent"

By Walt Wiltschek (*)

A presentation from the Pacific

The WCC's Pacific Region is taking its opportunity to shine at these central committee meetings. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the WCC, the member churches of the Pacific presented a wood and shell plaque to the organisation and shell medallions to the moderator and other officers. "When we received the program for the 60th anniversary, we discussed it, and (the churches) asked me to present something from the Pacific", said Mr John Taroanui Doom, WCC president from the Pacific. "I like to show things from the Pacific"! The gifts are locally made, with special wood from the Marquesas Islands and glistening mother of pearl shell from Tuvalu. They were made at a factory that has provided work for local young people. The plaque and medallions note the anniversary and the years 1948-2008, with the WCC "Oikoumene" logo in gold and the motto "We intend to stay together" in English and French. Doom also presented the medallions to WCC staff and representatives at the Global Christian Forum held in Kenya this past November.