Researchers and practitioners gathered at the VID campus in Oslo, Norway, to hear Pillay’s keynote speech on “Called to Transformation: Reflections about the Future of Diaconia and Diaconia Research.”
Diaconal engagement “requires co-ordination, co-operation and mutual aid – delivered in a spirit of prayer and Christian loving kindness – hence the emphasis on a truly ecumenical diakonia which should be the leading trend for future diakonia,” said Pillay.
“Our strength is found in cooperating and acting together for transformation and change. This requires interdisciplinary work and collaboration on a number of fronts, in the work we do, the research we engage, and the impact we long for,” he added.
Speakers reflected on crises such as the pandemic, climate change, and the war in Ukraine, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other parts of the world, and how these crises affect individuals, groups, and societal well-being in very different ways. Some spaces are more affected than others, and people who live in more vulnerable places or conditions have disproportionately high risks of disadvantage and discrimination. These divides appear increasingly on local, national, and global levels.
The conference delved into answers to such question as: How do we imagine “diaconal” spaces? What does diaconia mean from a global perspective?
Pillay also met with the Church of Norway, Christian Council of Norway, and Norwegian Church Aid, in addition to Most Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, presiding bishop of the Church of Norway.
Erhard Hermansen, secretary general of the Christian Council of Norway, offered Pillay an overview about the council’s work, and the contact with the churches in Ukraine in particular.
“It was such a great joy to meet with Bishop Tveit and the Church of Norway, to give the lecture at VID University, and to meet with the Christian Council of Norway and Norwegian Church Aid,” said Pillay. “Truly blessed encounters!”
Tveit agreed, reflecting: “The blessing of succession. The surprise of coincidence. The gift of faith: The present general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, visited Oslo today. So good to see that the work I was responsible for, is taken so well care of and pursued.”
VID Specialized University dean Prof. Dr Bård Meland called for a moment of tribute to Dr Agnes Abuom, former moderator of WCC and honorary doctorate of VID University.
“Jerry and I shared our gratitude to God for the life and work of Agnes, for the friendship and her leadership,” said Tveit. “At dinner we could discuss the visits he had to Kiev and to Moscow. The role of the WCC is to address the issues of peace, in any time and context, but also to speak truth to one another and to power, as Jerry has done at these last visits.”