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Message of Greeting to the Ecclesiastical Diplomacy Conference

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit sent a greeting to a conference about religious and ecclesiastical diplomacy held in Greece on 28 February - 3 March.

28 February 2019

Message of Greeting to the Ecclesiastical Diplomacy Conference

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

General Secretary, World Council of Churches

28 February 2019


Your excellency Prime Minister Tsipras, Your Beatitude Archbishop Hieronymous, your eminences and excellencies and esteemed friends, greet you in the name of the World Council of Churches, its 350 member churches around the world, and its commissions and staff and ecumenical partners collaborating with you each day in your diaconal, developmental, and pastoral work, especially in the Hellenic Republic of Greece.

It is encouraging and inspiring to see the concerted effort in this conference to frame and forge the diplomatic and relational ties that are indispensable to protecting human life, ensuring health, and fostering well-being of all those whose lives you touch in your work.

Greece, especially in its struggle to deal with its economic and refugee challenges during these last ten years, has become an emblem and example for the rest of the world of resilience and persistence, of course, but also of compassion for the neighbour, openness to partnerships and collaboration, and willingness not just to ask for but also to render help.

No country, no nation, no people can go it alone. The needs are too great, the resources too few, the time so short. We all need to nurture and draw on the relationships that real diplomacy painstakingly builds.

This is as true for churches as it is for governments.

I commend especially the churches of Greece and their work with the people of Greece, as well as with the government and international aid agencies to address the life-threatening dangers you have faced.

While the refugee crisis has been a focal point, it is emblematic of the whole range of challenges confronting the churches and government now and that you will discuss in your meeting: healthcare delivery, social services, economic recovery and growth, mitigating the effects of climate change.  The list goes on.

The responses need to be comprehensive in scope and scale, internationally resourced, yet also locally rooted.  So I applaud your focus on policies and strategies to guide this work. Deeply invested in local communities while also globally connected through their ecumenical relations, the churches are an enormous, even indispensable resource in this work. I welcome, too, your intent to cement interchurch and interfaith relations as well.

Yet this storm of crises has also revealed a deeper rent in the fabric of society, one that churches, if united, can help to address. Deep impulses and habits of exclusion—whether via racism or xenophobia or interreligious intolerance—not only create conflict and divide societies.  They also threaten the very foundations of democracy and its institutions.

So our task is not only to deliver aid, however vital, or to expand our charity through wider compassion. These times also test our commitment to an open society and to democracy itself, to the vision and reality of a society that not only tolerates but also welcomes and values diversity.

Achieving unity in diversity is what ecumenical Christianity, spearheaded 100 years ago by the Orthodox churches, has promoted and in good measure realized for one hundred years. Through shared faith and diakonia, but also through advocacy and action, education and peacemaking, our chief aim and achievement is the creation of fellowship, the positive, indeed loving regard for the other, the very different other, that animates community and cooperation, foments justice, and secures peace.  That encompassing regard, stimulated by the churches’ recognition of the image of God in every person, is the foundation of human dignity and human rights and, in the end, of an open society.

I believe that nothing less than encompassing love will nurture the trust, good will and creativity needed to address all the rest of the problems. Nothing else can open hearts and minds to value the dignity and worth of every life and the open, diverse society makes for the common good.

So I wish you every blessing in your deliberations, and I look forward to hearing about the results.