The future of the ecumenical movement is at stake in a contest between the Bible and MTV, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia said today in India. He affirmed the potential of young people to revitalize the ecumenical movement by posing challenging questions.
Addressing a national ecumenical gathering of Christian youth leaders convened by the Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI) at its headquarters in Bangalore, Kobia spoke on the "Role of youth in revitalising the ecumenical movement".
The WCC general secretary asserted that in addition to economic globalization, cultural globalization is affecting the identities of young people in all regions. "We must call into question the dominant and western popular cultures that are exported to all parts of the world through consumer products, media and entertainment," he urged.
Young people are the target of much modern media, while churches struggle to communicate to them, Kobia affirmed. "Even in the so-called Christian countries, the majority of the youth are Biblically illiterate but well-informed about the latest MTV programmes," he said, referring to the US-based music television network targeted at adolescents and young adults. The church risks "losing the younger generation to the infotainment industry."
As a consequence, Kobia believes, and "unless something drastic is done now, the church will lose a whole generation of leadership," with dire consequences for the ecumenical movement. "Without the strong involvement of youth in the church, the ecumenical movement will have no future," the WCC general secretary underlined.
The ecumenical movement is aware of this situation, Kobia said, and noted that the WCC in particular is "striving to integrate the leadership and input of young people more deliberately into the different areas of its work". The Council, he recognized, "needs input from ecumenically-active young people" as it establishes a new "youth body" created by its 9th Assembly one year ago in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
This new body, made up of 25 young adults aged between 18 and 30 years, aims to promote the participation of youth in the Council's life and work by ensuring the sustainable and active involvement of young adults in all levels of the WCC.
"It is the role of each young generation to pose the challenging questions and bring change for the better. This is not only true for the society and political institutions but also for the churches," Kobia said. "You are capable of revitalizing the WCC, and I invite you to do exactly that," he appealed to the gathering.
Kobia's keynote speech was followed by an hour-long open conversation with the participants. Kobia welcomed the "privilege" and "rare opportunity" to engage in direct discussions with young people, since he mainly meets with church leaders, heads of world communions and dignitaries. "Very few, if any of these are under 60," he said.
On 17-18 February Kobia will be the chief guest and a main speaker at the 112th Maramon Convention of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, which takes place annually at Maramon, Kerala, and is the largest Christian gathering in Asia.
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Additional information on Kobia's visit to India is available at:
On-site coverage of the visit by Ecumenical News International is available at:
Additional information on the new WCC youth body is available at:
Media contact in India:
Mathews George Chunakara 094.4795.8970 (mobile)