5 March 2024, Geneva, Switzerland: Lorena Catalina Bonilla of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Gemeinden in Deutschland, Colombia, speaks at an inaugural Joint Meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), the Commission on Health and Healing (CHH), and the Commission on Climate Justice and Sustainable Development (CCJSD).


"We're stewards to one another. And just as we are to present the environment back to God, in a better condition than how he gave it to us, we are also to present ourselves back to him in a better condition than what he made us," said Kofinas.

Lorena Catalina, a panelist from Colombia, said, "There's a saying in Colombia that where the government cannot go because the place is under the control of an armed group, you will find the church."

She said the church has been interested in the trauma caused by years of internal conflict in Colombia.

"That's why some churches have participated in accompaniment meetings where former combatants from our groups and victims from the conflict can have an open, but safe dialogue, to ease the wounds, and to start to heal.”

Faith-based initiatives

The churches provided different initiatives from faith-based communities and a clear calling from the government to participate actively in practical ways.

Rev. Christo Greyling of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa said he has been HIV positive for many years.

"If I think where we were with HIV 27 years ago, it was a death sentence on the health side, but it was also the death sentence on the stigma side,” said Greyling, who lives in the Netherlands.

The churches came together to help influence UNAIDS and understand faith's role in this.

"The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance brought together people who were working together across community, ecumenical, and evangelical lines, and they started to work together on a common issue," said Greyling

"It is from HIV that this started to adapt, and it went a different way. So, we saw how church leaders who were negative and judgmental turned into instruments of compassionate care. Wow, isn't that God's word."

Rev. Dr Peter Kuhnert of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada addressed the panel "from the faith and science perspective."

"We need to find better ways to work on global governance issues. We need to know how tech is used—biotech, synthetic biology, generative AI," said Kuhnert.

"These are larger than any nation or region of nations. They are global issues, ecumenical issues, and interfaith issues."

The churches must find ways to partner with interested members in industry and civil society.

"Other things that we could consider doing as churches are working to ban lethal, lethal autonomous weapon systems and signing on as national or international church organizations to call for AI ethics," said the Canadian church minister.

No sterilised equipment 

Dr Audeh B. Quawas, of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Jordan, a Palestinian who lives in Jordan, spoke about the precarious situation of displaced Palestinians.

"As a surgeon, I don't have sterilised equipment. And I don't have an autoclave to sterilize the instruments which I work with," Quawas said.

"Gaza and Palestine are under siege. Nothing is going in for medical use, neither food nor water. And this is an urgent call for all churches to deliver this," he said.

Prof. Yoon Jae Chang of the Presbyterian Church in Korea said, "The most critical barriers and challenges to our health in the past, today, and in the future, are climate, food, and infectious diseases.”

He said COVID-19 has killed approximately 6 million people around the world over the past four years.

"So, it is no exaggeration to say that humanity has fought World War Three.”

Dr. Cleopatra Nomonde Mqhayi-Mbambo, of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa from South Africa, said that everybody belongs to a system, but these all have pitfalls,

Among the socio-economic factors are the distribution of resources, transportation, disability, stigma, language, cultural ideas, and religions.

"The socio-economic factors play an important role in our daily lives."

She said that in South Africa, government hospitals provide free health care to those who cannot afford it.

"But due to a lack of financial investment and resources, these hospitals have multiple challenges," said Mqhayi-Mbambo.

Unfortunately, in some cases, patients are expected to try to buy medicine and bring it to the hospital, as she highlighted some of the barriers, unequal distribution of resources, and management and leadership crises they face.

Three WCC commissions meet to confront emerging global challenges (WCC news release, 5 March 2024)

Photo gallery: Joint Meeting of Three WCC Commissions – March 2024