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Condolence letter to the churches and all faith communities of Belgium

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expresses condolences following the loss of many lives in a bus accident in Sierre, Switzerland.

15 March 2011

15 March 2011

Dear sisters and brothers in Belgium:

May the presence and abiding love of God sustain you and empower your essential ministries of comfort and healing in this tragic time. Words alone are inadequate to express our sorrow on hearing of Tuesday evening's coach crash in Sierre, Switzerland with the loss of many precious lives, and so we place our trust in the Holy Spirit to pray in our prayers, to begin the process of alleviating human pain, and to aid us in our witness and service to those who grieve most deeply.

On behalf of the World Council of Churches and our partners in the Ecumenical Centre of Geneva, I extend heart-felt sympathy and the assurance that our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy.

Earlier today in our Ecumenical Chapel, common prayer was offered for the people of Belgium by members of staff from the various organizations housed here. One of the central readings came from St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (1:3-4,7):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God; Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.

It is in that same spirit that I write.

Last summer, my wife and I were on holiday in our native land of Norway at the time when a deranged killer struck Oslo and a youth camp on Utøya Island. Most of those who died were young people, and the event plunged our nation into shock and deep mourning. We have learned that the road back from such a moment is difficult, that the emotional challenges to survivors are formidable, that whole communities can be crucial to the recovery of individuals and families, and that the support we offer one another in faith is crucial to building the future.

Standing in the shadow of the Cross, we dare to seek once more the sure and certain hope offered by the Resurrection. Meanwhile, may the living God bless you as you offer consolation to those who are suffering.

In the name of the God of heaven and earth,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary