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Global Conference on Human Fraternity Abu-Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates 3-4 February 2019 : Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Global Conference on Human Fraternity Abu-Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates 3-4 February 2019 Olav Fykse Tveit General Secretary, World Council of Churches

03 February 2019

Global Conference on Human Fraternity

Abu-Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates

3-4 February 2019

 

Olav Fykse Tveit

General Secretary, World Council of Churches

 

Your excellences, eminences, honoured participants,

Dear brothers and sisters!

 

It is a pleasure and an honour to be with you today and address you simply as “brothers and sisters.” We are all members of the one human family. As human beings we are related. That is why we are here together, gathered under this theme of “human fraternity.”

And as it is in every family, we are different. In every family, there are challenges. Some challenges relate to how we handle those differences. But as in every family, there is something that can make us feel at home, something that can make us feel well, protected and supported, something that can keep us together and even overcome problems and failures, and that is love. With love, life in a family is a blessing; without love, life in any family is a burden, even a problem, a risk. There are many who unfortunately have experiences of that as well. The same is true for the one human family. We need to show what we all need: love for one another. And we have to show what that love means in practice. Sometimes we need to learn that we have to love those who are very different from us. Love must express itself in a true search for justice, for peace, and for untiy. To love one another also means to love the one world in which we live. In this way we can show that we love God, our creator.

Human fraternity as an article of faith

I am here to represent the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 350 Orthodox and Protestant churches from around the world. We share the same conviction expressed by the theme of this conference: that there is something called human fraternity. It is a truth given in our faith: We are all created by the one same God, the Creator of all, in every generation and every nation.

The WCC has as our motto to be together on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. This year we particularly focus on how to combat racism, which perhaps more than other today directly challenges our vision of human fraternity. The evil influence of racism in the world today challenges us all, whatever our faith may be, to work out in practice what it means truly to love all our human sisters and brothers, and to seek for them the experience of justice and peace in their daily lives that we would also wish for ourselves.

We know today that this is also genetically true: We are connected, and our genetic differences, in global perspective, are quite relative and insignificant. One of the least significant differences genetically, for example, is the colour of our skin. Therefore, the concept of “race” is a construction, most often employed to reinforce certain political interests, sometimes even combined with some religious perspectives.

However, indeed, racism is a reality, degrading, discriminating and excluding others. Racism is a human sin and one of the most dangerous poisons in our lives as one human family. It is deadly for our relationships.  And it can pose a huge risk and even deadly consequences for human beings. We know that from the history of the 20th century, particularly the tragic genocides against Jews and other peoples.

Racism exhibits different forms of exclusive attitudes and practices, all the time in new forms and varieties and not only related to the colour of our skins and ethnicities. Yet, regardless of its many manifestations, to degrade others or exclude others because they belong to another group, another people or religion is always the opposite of living in human fraternity. It is the opposite of the love we need to live together. Any form of racism attacks the dignity and the rights of other human beings, it destroys relations with one another, and therefore it is also self-destructive for the one human family, eventually even for the one who excludes and practices racism.

Therefore we must affirm: Human fraternity is a task, a divine calling. This is a matter of being truly human, acknowledging one another and  behaving as one human family. We represent many differences in nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, colours of our skin, gender, languages, tribes, political affiliations. We represent quite different religious traditions, too, which present significant diversity and sometimes even divisions among us. Religious pluralism arose for historical reasons, to some extent theological reasons, sometimes political and personal reasons. That does not mean that we are not sisters and brothers.

 

Unity in faith for unity of humanity

To achieve a just and peaceful unity in mutual love, we all have to acknowledge our shortcomings, and we have to be honest about our failures—past and present—to do so. Still, our faith in God is a faith in God’s mercy and love. As Christians we believe that the love of God, as it manifested through Jesus Christ,  can move us to live together as one human family. Authentic love is more than emotions; it is something shown in a common search for justice and peace. We are created together and called together as peoples of faith to be guardians of one another, as sisters and brothers.

Our respective religious beliefs can be a source for the protection of all humans. We know also that religious convictions can motivate strong emotions, including aggression, hatred, and even violence toward others. It is our responsibility, we who are here, and everybody representing religions in our time, to reflect God’s love for humanity.  We should therefore be mutually accountable to one another, for how we manifest the meaning and blessing of being one human family together.

Religious responsibility

Today, we are living in challenging times, which require daring stands and bold actions from us in the name of God and for the sake of all humans.

Since religious leaders and institutions wield great influence in guiding people to promote social cohesion and social responsibility, we must inculcate the value and concept of citizenship on the basis of diversity, promotion of  freedom of religion and belief, and solidarity among different religious communities. Together with others, politicians, lawmakers and media, we should promote the responsibilities and the freedom of true and shared citizenship. This would – I believe - be significant contributions also against many forms of exclusivism, discrimination and racism of our time.

Today a new communal narrative and a new social pact are needed for us, everywhere, also in the Middle East, the cradle of our three Abrahamic religions. Particularly the most vulnerable should experience the true support and solidarity of all. Among those who have been suffering the longest from lack of solid citizenship, lack of equal rights and proper protection,  are the Palestinian people. We need to care for the human rights of all. Such respect for human rights are – in its deepest sense  - a translation of love, of  care for the other.

 

May God give us the courage to be one human family - to choose the right way – the way of love!