Offering the keynote address, Peter Prove, director of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), spoke on the history and evolution of WCC’s engagement for human rights.
The post-war context in which the WCC was finally born made a profound impact on it, reflected Prove. “The effects of war and the gross violations of human rights that took place during the conflict demanded attention from the churches as well as from governments, and strengthened the appeal for a new international order, institutions and instruments for peace and for human rights,” he said.
After recounting the contributions made by the WCC to the development of the international human rights framework and the evolution of its own approach to these issues, Prove highlighted the increasing challenges to this legal framework for the protection of human dignity. He observed that, “in recent years, we have faced an exceptional and unprecedented constellation of challenges to human rights - even to the very legitimacy of the human rights framework as a whole.”
The ascendancy of populist nationalist political leaders in many parts of the world, and the increased licence that they gave to such hatreds as racism, xenophobia and antisemitism has become a phenomenon especially grievous to witness, said Prove. “These political forces accelerated a retreat from commitment to the rule of (international) law and from multilateralism in general,” he said.
Prove concluded by sharing his hope that the WCC 11th Assembly in 2022 will serve as an opportunity for churches to rise above these challenges and to become even more engaged in support of human rights and the legal framework developed for their promotion and protection.
“I hope and I pray that compassion - and the love of Christ on which the theme of the WCC Assembly in Karlsruhe next year is focused - will define the path for our next steps together for human dignity and rights,” he said.