Participants of the seminar in Matanzas, Cuba. ©WCC

Participants of the seminar in Matanzas, Cuba. ©WCC

“Christ’s call for abundant life (John 10:10) means that the church must work to address the enormity of challenges, including access to water resources, care for creation, and adequate health care,” said Rev. Matthew Ross during a World Council of Churches (WCC) seminar on young people’s involvement in “Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainable Development,” held in Matanzas, Cuba, July 15-20.

The event in Cuba is a key part in WCC’s work on diakonia—the church’s work in service to humanity—in the context of this year’s focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. The activity was held in partnership with the Evangelical Theological Seminary at Matanzas (SET).

Ross, who serves as WCC programme executive for Diakonia and Sustainable Development, stressed that “the issue of poverty and economic injustice in this region is one that the church cannot ignore and shows the immense importance of diakonia in addressing these challenges,” he said.

Representatives from many countries in the region gathered together to share ideas and learn from each other, particularly in the context of the churches’ response to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The goal of the seminar was to share young people’s experiences working for just and sustainable communities and to bring their voices to the discussion on ecumenical diakonia and the SDGs. It also aimed to discuss current challenges to youths’ undertaking diaconal tasks and to explore the ways that young people live and share their faith with each other, and with church and society, through practical diaconal action.

The working document “Called to Transformative Action: Ecumenical Diakonia,” produced by WCC, the Lutheran World Federation and ACT Alliance, was a key resource in the reflections held in Matanzas. The paper, begun in 2014, is being shared with  WCC member churches and ecumenical partners for their feedback.

The Matanzas seminar produced a “Call to Action,” issued by the young participants, in which they ask churches and religious organizations “to maintain and create training spaces, strengthening leadership skills to develop and achieve alternative strategies that foster diaconal action from young people.”

Learn more about the WCC work on Public Witness and Diakonia