The 54th meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) began today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, marking its yearly regional focus on Africa.
As the city where the African Union is located, Addis Ababa is considered the political capital of the continent. “We are meeting in the city which has been very important for the liberation of Africa, and many cultures converge here now”, said moderator of the WCC central committee Dr Agnes Abuom. “We want to journey with you, and confirm our support to the common vision of Africa that is unity, prosperity and peace.”
During the meeting CCIA members are discussing the commission’s previous work and its outcomes focusing on Middle East, as well as setting strategic directions for activities until 2021. The meeting also explored the process and status of the statement of commitment “Africa we want”, a result of the consultation by African faith-based organizations on the African agenda for 2063.
Commissioners welcomed the new moderator of CCIA, Rev. Frank Chikane, who shared his first “baptism by fire” experiences with CCIA, visiting those suffering in the current crisis in Iraq and Jordan. “As the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, we now are facing the same challenges as at the time of founding the CCIA, when churches needed to engage boldly in the peace building process in the world”, said Chikane.
Peter Prove, WCC director of International Affairs, shared the report on the commission’s recent work, highlighting its advocacy activities for human rights, global peace-building and the refugee crisis, as well as previous active engagement in the Middle East and Africa.
Addressing the meeting, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said that ecumenical movement is called to follow Jesus Christ through both the cross and the resurrection. “That means going deeply into realities of this world, and particularly into the realities of those who are suffering from injustice, abuse of power, discrimination and oppression.”
“However there is no reality of resurrection without hope”, said Tveit. “Believing that something else as what we see is being possible, and act according to that – that is our call as churches, and as believers, addressing the challenges of this world”. He emphasized that CCIA has a great contribution to the work of WCC, helping to let world know that the Christian faith is hope rather than something polarizing and dividing, and that the change is possible towards justice, bringing discrimination and injustice to an end.
The CCIA advises the WCC on critical situations in the world and on opportunities to support initiatives for peacemaking, justice and overcoming poverty. The commission also helps the WCC identify challenges to the churches and guide them in shaping a coherent ecumenical response.
The CCIA, which meets once a year, is comprised of 45 people nominated by churches and regional ecumenical organizations. Commissioners are church leaders, pastors, laypersons and academics with expertise on areas relevant to the commission.
The current CCIA meeting is taking place in Ethiopia’s capital from 27 February to 1 March. By the end of the meeting, the opening of WCC’s Lenten campaign “Seven weeks for water” will take place, raising awareness on water justice issues in Africa during the Lent period.