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WCC general secretary greetings to the 64th General Conference and 70th Anniversary of the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM)

Greetings for the 64th General Conference and 70th Anniversary of the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) "God of love, guide us in the path of Reconciliation, Unity in Diversity, Justice and Peace". Read by Prof Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC Deputy General Secretary. 26-30 June 2019, Maputo province, Mozambique

25 July 2019

"God of love, guide us in the path of Reconciliation, Unity in Diversity, Justice and Peace"
Read by Prof Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC Deputy General Secretary

26-30 June 2019, Maputo province, Mozambique

I bring you greetings from the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fyske Tveit. He congratulates the Council of Churches in Mozambique for the 64th General Conference and 70th Anniversary of the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) under the theme "God of love, guide us in the path of Reconciliation, Unity in Diversity, Justice and Peace". You had invited him to be with you at this event. Unfortunately, he has another commitment which overlaps with this one and that invitation came earlier than yours. I am glad that you accepted that I come and represent him.

Some of you have been actively involved in the work of the WCC. For the sake of those of you who are members of the CCM but do not know what is the World Council of Churches, it is a fellowship of 350 Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, many United and Uniting Churches, Mennonites, Friends, Congregationalists, Disciples and African Indigenous Churches. It is broadest, most inclusive Christian organization in the world. It represents 560 million Christians in over 120 countries. The primary purpose of the fellowship of churches in the World Council of Churches is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and in one Eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and common life in Christ, through witness and service to the world, and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe (WCC Constitution, Article III). The WCC was established in 1948, the same year that the Christian Council of Mozambique was founded.

Some of you have been members of WCC directly from Mozambique. Others it has been through your connections in South Africa or in the USA.

The celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the CCM is an occasion to look back with gratitude and to affirm the shared commitment of one ecumenical movement where we are walking together “the path of reconciliation, unity in diversity, justice and peace. ”You have come a long way since 1948 when the CCM was established in the same year as the World Council of Churches (WCC). You have defeated the Portuguese army and liberated yourself from centuries of colonialism in a fierce and bloody war from 1964 to 1974. Soon after the hard-won independence, you have struggled with each other for your different identities and lives – again a very difficult time of violence and despair, but you have found the way to peace and reconciliation. These four days have given you an opportunity to understand why you want to walk together on the path of unity in diversity, justice and peace. This commitment is deeply rooted in your experience. It is earned by yourselves, your mothers and fathers, and your ancestors with times of deep distress, but also with moments of joy and celebration.

I would like to recall the names of two people who influenced not only the history of your country, but in many ways also the life and work of the member churches of the World Council of Churches worldwide. The first who stands for liberation and justice is Eduardo Mondlane. Remembering him, we are reminded of the fact that Protestant mission in the Portuguese Colony moved away from the dominant Portuguese language and culture, but affirmed the vernacular, the local languages of the people, thus strengthening a sense of identity, of dignity and agency. The churches who founded the CCM in 1948 became unwillingly or sometimes even deliberately seedbeds of the vision of liberation and justice that motivated the future leaders of the anti-colonial fight.

The world got to know Eduardo Mondlane as such a leader when he spoke in 1964 at the famous WCC and AACC Mindolo consultation on Racism in Kitwe, Zambia and two years later at the 1966 World Conference on Church and Society in Geneva, Switzerland. As a youth representative, he had been the only participant from Mozambique at the 1954 WCC assembly in Evanston, USA. He was about to speak at the 1969 Nottinghill consultation that inaugurated the Programme to Combat Racism of the WCC, when he was killed on February 3, 1969 by a parcel bomb in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But his vision of the struggle of liberation continued to inspire the WCC programme to combat racism.

The Programme to Combat Racism was among the most controversial initiatives of the WCC when it was born in 1969. Today it is remembered as one of the most important things the churches have done together.

The WCC executive committee, meeting in November 2017, noted that racism was “on the rise in different forms in different regions” and agreed that addressing racism ecumenically should remain a priority.

This year, 2019, the theme of the WCC pilgrimage of justice and is racism. We are reflecting again on the lessons learnt from our past experience. We are also analysing the continued different manifestation of racism, xenophobia, stigma and discrimination today, especially because of displacement of our people within our countries, into the neighbouring countries and in other continents. The experiences and contribution of Mozambique in the fight against racism comes to mind. My question to you today is: how have you continued to deal with the experiences of displaced people within Mozambique and those who are targeted in South Africa?

The second person – still alive – stands for peace, reconciliation and unity in diversity. I remember Bishop Dinis Sengulane, peace advocate and former president of the CCM. Bishop Sengulane is known worldwide, far beyond Mozambique. He earned deep respect as mediator between the Frelimo government and the Renamo and as the promotor of the Peace and Reconciliation Campaign in the late Eighties of last century. Inspired by the prophets, he motivated movements worldwide with the initiative "Transformacao de Armas em Enxadas" / "Transforming Arms into Tools" exchanging thousands of weapons of war with tools for peaceful use.

After the WCC Harare assembly in 1998, Bishop Sengulane became involved in the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence as a member of the WCC’s Commission on International Affairs (CCIA). He was invited by the WCC in 2001 to a United Nation’s Conference on Illicit Trade of Small Arms in New York, USA. At a prayer service he said: "Peace is a matter to be dealt with horizontally and vertically. We must express peace as a spiritual matter," Again in New York in the year 2006, he urged the delegates of the states to ensure that the UN "programme of action on small arms will be anchored in respect for human rights, international law, and human security." Speaking later during a public rally on the streets of New York in the Broadway theatre district, he said: "I am wearing a cross made of pieces of guns to show that we can transform this industry stained with blood into an industry of promoting human dignity in the biblical sense of turning swords in to ploughshares."

But what about today? I am aware of women and men of faith among you who are transforming injustices and seeking peace with justice within Mozambique and through the AACC. Rev Dr Felicidade Cherinda, contributed tremendously through the Continental wide Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians to resist against gender injustice. I first met Bishop Dennis Matsolo through the WCC-EHAIA where he championed end to stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV and AIDS. Hiss work in reaching out towards people of other faiths to build peace with justice is in line with the conference theme of seeking peace in diversity. Space does not allow me to tell all your stories of how you have contributed to the one ecumenical movement.

In conclusion, your theme for this 70th anniversary is very close to the theme of the WCC next assembly in 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany: “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.” I can assure you that I will take everything what I saw and heard during my visit here in Mozambique into the preparations of the forthcoming WCC assembly. It is also my pray that you will be strategic in making sure that someone from Mozambique should be in the governance of the WCC. The WCC needs your kind of experience and spirituality to contribute towards guiding its affairs.